O'Malley Seeks Mandate for Offshore Wind

 
WILD FOR WIND:  Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley is pushing for legislation to require utilities to buy offshore wind power, the Washington Post reports . O'Malley's bill mandates that the utilities enter into purchase agreements of at least 20 years for offshore wind to buy 400 to 600 megawatts of power. O'Malley says 500 megawatts would power more than half the homes in Baltimore. Unions and environmentalists both support the concept, but it will face scrutiny in the Legislature because it will raise energy bills, at least at first. After approving the nation's first offshore wind farm off Cape Cod last year, the U.S. Department of Interior announced earlier this month that it would open sites off Maryland, Virginia , New Jersey and Delaware to offshore wind, with more states likely to follow soon.

NUCLEAR SUIT: Three Democratic attorneys general are suing the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in an effort to force the federal government to reassess its plans for nuclear waste, the New York Times reports . The AGs of New York , Vermont and Connecticut say that the Commission didn't follow proper procedures in declaring that spent nuclear fuel could stay on-site at power plants for up to 60 years. The Commission says the opinion was non-binding, although some nuclear boosters have regarded it as a green light to pursue new reactors. "It puts more pressure, frankly, on the federal government and the nuclear power industry to come up with long-term — and by that I mean permanent — solutions," said Vermont Attorney General William H. Sorrell.

ETHANOL SETBACK: A state-subsidized facility in Georgia to generate fuel from tree waste has shut down, a development that symbolizes the struggles of cellulosic ethanol, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports . For years, energy experts have awaited a transition from corn-based ethanol to ethanol that can made from inedible plant materials — think switchgrass or tree limbs or corn stalks — that are widely available and wouldn't compete with the food supply. Commercializing cellulosic ethanol, however, has proven more difficult than expected. The closed factory received $162 million in government subsidies, including a $6.2 million pledge from the state of Georgia, but it only produced a fraction of the expected fuel. Officials at the plant hope to reopen it if they get more funding. 

SCHMITT QUITS: Former astronaut Harrison Schmitt won't be New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez's energy secretary after all. Only a month after Martinez had nominated him, Schmitt withdrew from consideration after refusing a background check that is standard for all cabinet picks in New Mexico, the Albuquerque Journal reports . The Republican was expected to face opposition in the Democratic-controlled state Senate because he, like Martinez, is a climate-change skeptic. Schmitt, a geologist, served one term in the U.S. Senate and walked on the moon as part of the Apollo 17 mission.

MALLOY'S OTHER TAX: Amid his proposals to raise income, sales, alcohol, cigarette and gas taxes, it would have been easy to miss that Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy is proposing a tax on energy generation, too. The move would raise $58 million a year, the Hartford Courant reports . Malloy argues that the tax wouldn't affect Connecticut residents because most power produced in the state is sold to other states, but power companies argue that anything that raises costs for the regional grid ultimately will hit consumers' energy bills.
 
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