By KERRY DAVIS
ANNAPOLIS (April 7, 2011) Gov. Martin O'Malley's key piece of green legislation this session was effectively killed for the year after being held for study in the Senate Finance Committee on Thursday.
The wind energy bill would have contractually obligated utility companies to purchase energy from offshore wind production companies for 25 years. The wind turbines would have been built after the bill's passage, about 12 miles offshore of Ocean City.
The legislation had been stuck in committees in both the House and Senate, with each group holding working sessions for the last two weeks.
Sen. Thomas Middleton, D-Charles, the chair of the Senate Finance Committee, said the bill's complexity was too dense to take on with the end of the legislative session coming on Monday.
"I suggested in committee that we have no additional work sessions because we're in the final days of the session," Middleton said. "We've got all this legislation moving around that we just won't have time to engage in work sessions."
The governor's office, steelworkers and environmentalists had been united in a lobbying effort to pass the bill. A spokesman for the governor said the move isn't entirely unexpected.
"If you look in the past, things like deregulation, that took three years to pass, greenhouse gas reduction took two years - it's relatively standard for big, complex issues like this to take more than one session," said Shaun Adamec, spokesman for O'Malley.
The bill will be studied over the summer.
The governor had added amendments to the bill two weeks ago to try to address cost concerns to both the state and ratepayers. The ratepayer amendment would have capped potential increases to $2 a month for electricity.
Middleton said that while those late amendments helped, he thinks legislators were initially scared off the bill by reports that rate increases could have gone up to $8 a month for electricity consumers.
"For me personally, I had real reservations with the bill myself, just looking at the cost. But the more we got into it, I got a lot more of a comfort level with it," Middleton said.
Sen. Paul Pinsky, D-Prince George's, sponsored the bill in the Senate and is disappointed that neither the House nor Senate committees voted on the bill before it was killed.
"Work was being done in both chambers, but each committee was saying we don't want to move forward unless there's a clear majority on the other side," Pinsky said.
The House Economic Matters Committee had planned to vote on the bill Thursday afternoon, following the regular House session. The Senate Finance Committee's action made any House vote moot.