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Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) scored another victory today, as the Senate passed his bill to encourage offshore wind development.

The bill, which passed 30-15, now goes back across the hall, where the House will have to approve five amendments that were added during the Senate committee process.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. said he expected no problems, as the amendments are mostly technical.

The amendment came after two hours of debate, in which Minority Leader E.J. Pipkin (R-Dist. 36) of Elkton laid out numerous criticisms of the bill, calling it “corporate welfare.”

“The governor has had a tremendous run of legislation,” Pipkin said, referring to the contentious gun control and death penalty repeal bills passed in recent days by the chamber. “He doesn’t need this one. Especially one that has such a high cost.”

The bill sets up a process by which the Public Service commission can approve a development proposal for a 200-megawatt wind farm in the waters 10 to 30 miles off the coast of Ocean City. To be approved, the proposal must show that the increased cost on monthly bills the average residential ratepayer in Maryland will not exceed $1.50, or 1.5 percent of commercial customers’ bills. That increase would not go into effect until the wind farm is producing power.

Over 20 years, the total cost to Maryland power customers would be $1.73 billion, according to a state legislative analysis.

The earliest that turbines could be up and running is 2017, according to the administration.

Supporters of the bill heralded its success, saying that today is a historic moment for Maryland.

“This bill is to offshore wind in the Mid-Atlantic what the early railroads were to American transportation,” said Mike Tidwell, president of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. “It’s a driver of innovation that will create jobs, enhance our economy, improve public health and protect the environment.”

hnunn@gazette.net