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O’Malley Wind Bill Dies In Senate Committee

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Gov. Martin O’Malley’s offshore wind bill will have to wait a year.

Senate Finance Chairman Thomas “Mac” Middleton pulled the bill from consideration in his committee Thursday, saying there were too many questions to answer, including the costs to ratepayers and who would build the wind turbines, before lawmakers leave town next week.

“This deserves a further review,” Middleton said Thursday. “I’m not pulling it now because I want the bill to die, I’m pulling it now because we simply won’t have time to do it.”

The governor’s proposal would have mandated state utilities enter into long-term contracts to buy wind energy from a wind farm planned for 12 miles off the coast Ocean City. But lawmakers chafed at the rate hike that would hit homeowners and the thought of creating and subsidizing an entire market for the company that won the state contract.

“We’ll keep working on it,” O’Malley said Thursday. “For a lot of people, especially for new members, I’m sure it was a big new idea.”

The move kills one of the most ambitious proposals the governor was pushing this year. It also marks the second major initiative of the governors to be delayed a year. House Environmental Matters Committee Chairwoman Maggie McIntosh decided early in the session that O’Malley’s proposal to crack down on septic system pollution needed more study before being taken up by her panel.

“It’s a big setback for the environment,” said Delegate Tom Hucker, D-Montgomery, a lead sponsor of the House bill with the governor.

O’Malley faced criticism last month from top lawmakers, including Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, that he was not spending enough time in Annapolis working on his legislative priorities. As chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, O’Malley has spent a lot of time in Washington this session and has also traveled to Virginia and New Jersey to Democratic fundraisers.

But Middleton said Thursday the bill would have likely died this year even if O’Malley had spent more time on the issue.

“I don’t know that the governor could have done enough,” Middleton said.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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