Monday, March 17, 2014

Western Shore Scotches Wind Power Proposal

Southern Maryland prevails over Shore on wind turbines
Opponents of a Somerset County wind energy facility pushed forward with a proposal to slow the project Saturday, a victory for Southern Maryland over the Eastern Shore in a rare contest of rural regions.

On a 40-80 vote, the House defeated an amendment that would have weakened a bill to impose a 15-month delay on the construction of high turbines for the Eastern Shore project.

Lawmakers from Southern Maryland -- across the Chesapeake Bay -- are concerned about how the wind facility would affect Patuxent Naval Air Station, one of the state’s largest military bases and the economic engine of that region.
And indeed, the airbase at Patuxent River is a huge employer in our region, and a very knowledge based industry, with a well paid, and highly educated workforce.  The region was sweating bullets years ago when the closure of NavAir was contemplated as part of the base closing program.  Instead, other bases were closed, and many of their workers were sent here.
Some fear that turbines as high as 600 feet could disrupt radar operations at Pax River in Southern Maryland. Delegates from the area want to delay the construction of turbines higher than 340 feet until the completion of a study due in July 2015.

“Pax River is a $7.5 billion industry we should be sticking up to protect,” said Del. John L. Bohanan Jr., a St. Mary’s County Democrat.

Eastern Shore lawmakers contended that there was no good reason for the legislature to delay a lucrative project in one of Maryland’s poorest counties when the Navy has to sign off on any deal before construction can begin.
It does seem curious to oppose it based on it's effects on the naval base, when the Navy itself has not yet spoken on the issue.  However, it's easy to imagine that the Navy might be told from above to make do.
Their amendment would have allowed construction to proceed once the Navy and other agencies signed off on it.

The amendment vote cut across party lines, as liberal supporters of wind energy joined forces with conservative Eastern Shore lawmakers in trying to scuttle the bill, which will move on to a final House vote Monday.
Well, at least the eagles will be better off.

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