Wind Energy Project Faces Political Roadblocks in Maryland

Wind power is at risk in Maryland. That is why this past week Green America, along with 20 other environmental groups called on Senator Barbara Mikulski (MD) to revise a bill that would halt efforts to construct an onshore wind energy project in Somerset County, MD. You can read a copy of the letter here. Green America, the American Sustainable Business Council, and the Chesapeake Sustainable Business Council also sent a letter to Senator Mikulski on behalf of hundreds of Maryland Businesses encouraging her to permit the wind farm to go forward.

WindSenator Mikulski added language to The Department of Defense Appropriations Act of 2015 that would require Pioneer Green Energy to wait to begin construction on the Great Bay Wind Project until an independent study from MIT concerning the effects of wind turbines on naval radar testing at the Patuxent River Naval Base (Pax River Base) is completed. The issue arises from the Pax River Base’s highly sensitive radar system designed to test the stealthiness of fighter jets and weather wind turbines will interfere with the radar system. But, Senator Mikulski’s concerns are unfounded, as Pioneer and Pax River have already agreed that the turbines may be turned off during routine radar testing, with no interference to the military’s activities. Federal law states that the military must cooperate with alternative energy developers, and Pioneer says it expects the Navy to work with the company in order to reach an agreement to resolve the radar testing issue.

Representative Steny Hoyer, whose district includes the Pax River Base, wrote a letter with Senators Mikulski and Ben Cardin to local lawmakers raising concerns about the wind farm’s proximity to the military facility. The Pax River Base employs 22,000 people, contributes $7.5 billion to the state economy annually, and continues to grow at a time where other military bases are shrinking. Private contractors and foreign governments pay to use the base’s radar, and they fear that the interference from the wind farm would drive away those interests.

However, since Pioneer and Pax River Base are already in agreement on how to proceed with the issue (the turbines can simply be turned off during military activity), the potential harm to Pax River’s radar is little more than a red herring. Waiting for a study on the effects of wind turbines on the base’s radar testing will allow permit and tax-credit deadlines for the wind farm to pass. This would effectively halt any progress on the wind farm and cost the state of Maryland jobs and growth potential for clean energy.

Earlier this year, governor O’Malley vetoed a similar bill in the Maryland state legislature that would have delayed the project until the MIT study was completed. The governor cited safety measures that were already in place to deal with the wind turbines’ interference with military radar testing. To delay the project, said O’Malley, would send a “chilling message” to clean-energy businesses looking to set up shop in Maryland. 

There are a number of reasons to allow Pioneer’s wind project to proceed without interruption. The project would bring Maryland $44 million in tax revenue, at least 25 turbines providing 150 mw of clean, renewable energy, and hundreds of construction jobs. In addition to providing a path for sustainable economic growth for Somerset County, the wind farm could power thousands of homes while protecting the delicate Chesapeake Bay from pollution due to other energy sources. 

Green America is encouraging all Marylanders to call Senator Mikulski and let her know that you want her to withdraw her language from the Defense Appropriations Act of 2015 and let the Great Bay Wind Project go forward.

Please call Senator Mikulski’s office today at 202-224-4654.

Here’s a sample script:

As a Maryland resident, I support clean wind energy for our state.  I am very concerned that Senator Mikulski has introduced language to the Senate Appropriations Act of 2015 that would likely kill a new wind farm development in Somerset County.  The wind developer is already working to address Senator Mikulski’s concerns regarding the wind farm’s potential interference with radar that the nearby PAX river naval base.  Therefore a delay to conduct further studies is not needed, and could kill this vital new wind project, and prevent wind power from developing in the state in general.  

That’s why I’m urging the Senator to withdraw the language she inserted into the Defense Appropriations Act and allow the wind farm to go forward.

Thank you.   

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