Wind Farms, Cui Bono?

Opposition to proposed wind farms on state forest land in Western Maryland is vocal and growing. More than 500 folks showed up at a public hearing to protest US Wind Force LLC’s proposal to lease 400 acres of forest land in Garrett County to build 100 forty-story wind turbines in two state forests.

The Department of Natural Resources must decide the policy matter of whether or not wind turbines are a proper use of state lands before the Board of Public Works can vote on the lease.
A source tells me that US Wind Force LLC has other projects in the works to build wind farms on private lands.

The proposal has caused a minor rift among environmentalists, between those who want to preserve state forest land and global warming alarmists who see wind power as part of the answer to stop global warming. I agree with the conservationists that protecting the forest land is the best policy here. Wind power is expensive to generate and transmit, and currently an unreliable source of energy. That is not to say that it won’t be in the future.

However, there is more to this story. A brief timeline will help illuminate things:
April 2007: Governor O’Malley signed SB 566/HB 1072 into law, which allows wind generating companies like Synergics Wind Energy LLC to circumvent PSC regulations governing building on environmentally sensitive areas. Synergics is owned by Wayne Rogers, former chairman of the Maryland Democratic Party and crony to O’Malley and Senate President Mike Miller. Rogers served on O’Malley’s transition team as an energy expert. His transition team recommended more wind power. You can see the campaign contributions of Wayne Rogers here, and Synergics here.

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October 4, 2007: Governor O’Malley, with representatives from US Wind Force, visited potential wind farm sites in Western Maryland.

November 21, 2007: US Wind Force LLC contributes $4,000, the maximum contribution, to Friends of Martin O’Malley.

December 5, 2007: US Wind Force LLC contributes $1,000 to Friends of Peter Franchot.

Do you see a pattern here?

A second public hearing on the proposal was held last night in Annapolis and DNR is scheduled to brief the Western Maryland delegation this morning. Depending on DNR’s policy ruling, the Board of Public Works could vote on the proposal at its February 13 meeting. Given the campaign contributions and past history, my bet is that DNR blesses the proposal and the BPW approves. It is hard to imagine that US Wind Force didn’t notice how Wayne Rogers greased the skids to get approval for his wind farm.

Of course, we have seen this same behavior on display during the earliest months of the O’Malley administration. Remember David Sutherland and the Kudner land deal on the Eastern Shore? You know the shady land deal in which the O’Malley administration fired career DGS employee Nelson Reichart for informing the press that the state was purchasing land from another member of O’Malley’s transition team, for hundreds of thousands of dollars over the highest state appraisal. The same David Sutherland, who just happened to be DNR Secretary John Griffin’s former boss.

Even if DNR rules against the wind farm it may not matter. O’Malley and Franchot voted to halt a Kent Island development even though MDE secretary Shari Wilson testified that the developer followed all the environmental laws and regulations. Following the rule of law and applying it consistently is not a trait of this administration.

With that track record, I feel quite confident that the O’Malley administration’s handling of the US Wind Force proposal is above board.

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