With Maryland Democrats Cronyism is Blowin in the Wind

I read with interest Kevin Spradlin’s Cumberland Times News piece about Delegate Wendell Beitzel’s (R-Garrett & Allegany) bill to to set standards for wind energy projects in Maryland.

The bill, introduced Friday, does not attempt to indicate what those performance standards might be. Instead, Beitzel said the bill would require the state Public Service Commission and the Department of Natural Resources to jointly develop standards to regulate tower height, number and size of blades, rotor diameter, noise, lighting on and near turbines, and setbacks.

Even though the story reports that after failing to get out of committee last year, it is “gaining support” with 22 co-sponsors. Don’t bet on it. Why?

Because Maryland’s wind developers are so politically connected.

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Case in point this 2007 Washington Post piece on how Wayne L. Rogers, head of Synergics Wind Energy LLC, former chair of the Maryland Democratic Party, and “prolific donor to a who’s who of Democrats,” used his connections to circumvent PSC regulatory authority for his wind project in Western Maryland.

Rogers’s business interests effectively decided the debate among environmentalists over what takes precedence: developing wind power or protecting nature.

Rogers is an international developer of hydroelectric power plants, including in China and Guatemala. He is also a former chairman of the state Democratic Party and a prolific donor to a who’s who of Democrats, including Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and O’Malley. Rogers was finance chairman of Benjamin L. Cardin’s successful 2006 run for U.S. Senate in Maryland and Maryland chairman of Sen. John F. Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign. He is also a major fundraiser for Clinton’s presidential bid.

To overcome the state’s regulatory hurdles, Rogers, 52, enlisted Gerard E. Evans, one of Annapolis’s top lobbyists. One of Evans’s closest allies in the Maryland State House is the powerful Senate president, Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr.(D-Calvert). Evans began his career as an aide in Miller’s office, and Miller is godfather to Evans’s twin daughters.

Rogers and Miller share long ties through Democratic politics, and two of Rogers’ businesses contributed a combined $8,000 to Miller’s campaign committee in 2004, records show. In January, Miller submitted the wind energy bill that Rogers sought.

But wait it gets better

Rogers testified in favor of the bill at a hearing, citing many of the policy goals listed in the transition report he helped develop.

The Department of Natural Resources, which had conducted the lengthy environmental review of the Synergics project and opposed the bill, did not provide testimony before the committee. When two of the agency’s top wildlife scientists showed up, they were told by DNR’s legislative staff member that they could not testify, according to several people who are familiar with the case and spoke on condition of anonymity because of the political nature of the bill. The department’s name was crossed off the witness list of opponents, records show.

It was Martin O’Malley’s energy transition team–co-chaired by Rogers–which prepared that “transition report” .

So of course, Mike Miller pushed through and O’Malley signed the necessary legislation enriching the former head of their party and lavish donor to their campaign coffers.

Now back to the Cumberland Times News piece. Spradlin quotes “wind energy industry spokesman” Frank Maisano for the opposition to Beitzel’s legislation, saying “it ‘doesn’t make sense’ to have detailed performance standards, because changes in technology are ‘advancing so rapidly.’” Maisano is a senior principal for the high powered lobbying firm Bracewell & Giuliani, who also just happened to sit on the same O’Malley’s energy transition task force with… Wayne Rogers.

I wish Delegate Beitzel the best of luck, but he’s running head long in the Corporate Democrats of Maryland and all their entrenched power.

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