A full house of Montgomery County voters came to Rockville Tuesday, March 6, to learn what lawmakers in Annapolis are doing to pass offshore wind power legislation while regulating the controversial practice of “fracking” for natural gas in Western Maryland.
Attendees from across the county gathered at the Executive Office Building on Monroe Street in Rockville as legislators and advocates explained that momentum for offshore wind power legislation was growing in Annapolis. The Offshore Wind Energy Act (SB 237/HB 441), sponsored by Gov. Martin O’Malley, would incentivize 80 to 100 turbines off the coast of Ocean City while creating 1,500 jobs. But, the audience learned, the bill needs the full support of Montgomery County delegates and senators to pass out of committee and to win passage in the full House and Senate.
“As with all major environmental bills in our state, the strong support of Montgomery County leaders in Annapolis is vital,” said Mike Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, a co-sponsor of the event.
The issue of hydraulic fracturing—or fracking—for natural gas in western Maryland was another key topic of the community forum Tuesday night. This controversial drilling method, which has led to flammable drinking water and polluted rivers in Pennsylvania, must be studied carefully before being allowed to occur in Maryland, said Delegate Heather Mizeur of Takoma Park (D-Dist 20).
“Second chances are very expensive,” Mizeur told the audience. “Before a drill bit is ever put in the ground for fracked gas in our state, we need a common-sense bill that requires careful environmental study and a ‘best practices’ guide for energy corporations.”
Mizeur has introduced a bill (HB 1204/SB 798) requiring that energy companies pay a modest fee to fund such studies by August 2014.
The Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Environment Maryland, the Sierra Club, and the Woman’s Suburban Democratic Club sponsored the forum.