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O’Malley bashes PEPCO while his cronies aid utility with power line project

Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley has been flogging PEPCO over reliability and power restoration quite a bit of late. He blasted them in his recent state of the state address, and last summer, when severe thunderstorms rocked Maryland, O’Malley compared PECPCO’s service to that of a developing nation.

However, that rocky relationship did not stop PEPCO from engaging the services of Kearney O’Doherty Public Affairs, the well connected political strategy firm led by O’Malley’s former communications director, Steve Kearney.

PEPCO spokesman Clay Anderson confirmed to me that the utility has worked with KO for several months on messaging for the Mid-Atlantic Power Pathway (MAPP), a proposed $1.2 billion, 152 mile electric transmission line stretching from Virginia, across southern Maryland, under the Chesapeake Bay, across part of Maryland’s Eastern Shore and ending in Millsboro Delaware. Customers throughout the 13-state PJM Interconnection grid will share the cost burden of the project, which must be approved by the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC), whose members are chosen by O’Malley.

As first reported this week by Bryan Sears at Patch.com, KO was behind the successful Astroturf operation to lobby the Baltimore County Council to increase the number of speed cameras in the county. KO’s client ACS State and Local Solutions, is the county’s speed camera vendor, which stands to gain financially from the legislation. As Sears reported:

Kearney O’Doherty (KO) Public Affairs, the politically connected strategy firm hired by ACS, has helped Slow Down for Baltimore County Schools communicate with County Council members and expand its base of support by establishing a separate website that sends e-mails to the elected officials and drives more “likes” to the Facebook page.

Kearney’s partner, Damian O’Doherty, was a top aide to former Baltimore County Executive Jim Smith.

Similar to what they did with speed cameras, KO set up a Facebook Page called Shore Power to generate a grassroots buzz around MAPP, as well as blog by the same name with posts penned by an anonymous author. Delmarva Power, a subsidiary of PEPCO’s parent company also brought in public relations consultant, Cathy Bassett, who set up a MAPP Facebook page that bills itself as “a group of citizens who support the construction of the Mid-Atlantic Power Pathway.” Bassett is former congressman Wayne Gilchrest’s communication’s director.

If approved, MAPP would be vital transmission line to the western side of the Chesapeake Bay for proposed wind projects off Maryland’s coast. Markian Melynk, of Atlantic Wind Connection (ACW) the project firm constructing a massive offshore wind network along the Mid-Atlantic seaboard to harvest energy from offshore wind farms, said he sees the two projects as complimentary. “We see MAPP as beneficial because it would provide a path for a large amount of offshore wind energy to make its way across the Delmarva Peninsula to parts of Maryland and Virginia that lie to the west of the Chesapeake Bay.” Melynk said.

Melynk said Delmarva Power’s Indian River substation, where MAPP would end, is close to where their cables would come ashore to connect to the existing electricity grid.

Look at the image below, on the left is the planned ACW network and MAPP on the right. The ACW cables come ashore at the same location where MAPP ends in Millsboro.

Google is heavily invested in the $5 billion ACW project.

Energy companies are lining up to bid for leases from the federal government for wind farms off Maryland’s coast. One of those companies is run by Kearney’s former colleague in the O’Malley administration, Michael Enright. Enright served as O’Malley’s chief of staff, and is now a managing partner with Beowulf Energy, which is a partner in Maryland Offshore LLC, one of the firms vying for a lease.

A mandate requiring state utilities enter into long term contracts to procure electricity from offshore wind is top priority for O’Malley this legislative session.

ACW’s Melynk also happens to be the husband of state delegate Joseline Pena Melynk from Prince George’s County. Pena Melynk would be voting on O’Malley’s offshore wind legislation, unless she recuses herself.

Although Maryland would have little say in the federal government’s decision to award leases, O’Malley’s proposal mandating utilities procure power from offshore wind is what makes the wind farms, and transmission grids financially workable. No mandate, no demand for the turbines, or the grid.

Like MAPP, ratepayers will bear the costs of O’Malley’s wind mandate as utilities will pass the cost of long term contracts on to their customers.

While MAPP is much needed upgrade to Maryland’s electric grid infrastructure, KO’s involvement adds a stench to the project given O’Malley’s pandering on PEPCO.

Only in Martin O’Malley’s “One Maryland” can the governor publicly bash a utility while his cronies shepherd it’s project to approval by his own PSC, and mandate demand for a form of energy, which very well may be supplied by his former top aide’s energy company.

UPDATE
Pena-Melynk did not vote on the 2013 Offshore Wind Act, which passed the legislature in 2013.






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