As Clock Winds Down in Congress, Coalition Calls for Action on Wind Power

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Environment Maryland

As Hurricane Sandy and its aftermath prompt more Marylanders to call for action to tackle global warming and the rise in extreme weather, Environment Maryland released a new Environment Maryland Research & Policy Center report today that shows that Maryland’s current power generation from land-based wind energy displaces as much global warming pollution as taking 35,000 cars off the road per year. Maryland has also suffered from severe drought this year, and the Environment Maryland report shows that wind power saves enough water to meet the needs of 1,700 people.

Environment Maryland was joined by Baltimore City Councilman Jim Kraft (Dist. 1) and The Rev. Canon Scott Slater of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland in releasing the Environment Maryland Research & Policy Center report, “Wind Power for a Cleaner America: Reducing Global Warming Pollution, Cutting Air Pollution, and Saving Water.” The group touted wind energy’s environmental benefits to date, as well as future benefits if wind power continues to grow. The speakers urged Congress to extend critical federal incentives for wind power—the renewable energy production tax credit (PTC) and the offshore wind investment tax credit (ITC)—before they expire at the end of the year.

“Wind power is already replacing the dirty and dangerous energy sources of the past and creating a cleaner, healthier future for Marylanders,” said Lucy Bannon, field organizer with Environment Maryland. “We can continue on this path of cutting dangerous pollution and saving water if Congress acts now to extend critical wind incentives. Our message to Congress is clear: Don’t throw wind power off the fiscal cliff. Our clean air, water, and children’s future are too important to blow it now.”

If wind development continues at a pace comparable to that of recent years, by 2016 Maryland would reduce global warming pollution by as much as taking an additional 17,000 cars off the road and would save enough water to meet the needs of an additional 800 Marylanders, according to the report.

“The growing use of wind power in the United States has been so successful that it has more than doubled since 2008. The wind production and investment tax credits, which are set to expire in about a month, have played a big role in that success,” said U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) . “Wind power is an excellent source of clean, renewable energy that is essential to achieving U.S. energy security and improving the air we breathe. I am pleased that the Senate Finance Committee has taken action to extend these important benefits, and I am hopeful that the extensions will be passed before the end of the year.”

The report also outlined that today’s wind energy in Maryland is delivering results for public health, by avoiding 310 tons of smog-causing pollution and 160 tons of soot pollution.

“Many of us in the faith community know how crucial it is for us to reverse our rapidly-increasing human dependency on energy, and a step in that direction is through resources such as wind power,” said The Rev. Canon Scott Slater who is on the bishop’s staff of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland. “We must continue to push ourselves in this direction. It is our God-given responsibility.”

Maryland’s successful development of wind energy results largely from the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard which requires utilities to generate 20% of their power from wind and other renewable sources, and the federal renewable energy Production Tax Credit.

“I am convinced that expanded access to wind power is essential to our future. We have the capability to achieve cleaner air, better jobs and reduced dependence upon foreign oil,” said U.S. Representative Elijah Cummings, a Democrat from Maryland’s 7th Congressional district.

Wind energy now powers nearly 13 million homes across the country and is on its way to being cost-competitive with traditional fossil fuels. But the two key federal wind power incentives—the production tax credit and the offshore wind investment tax credit —expire at the end of the year. Without these credits, many planned wind farms will not be built, leaving health and environmental benefits for Marylanders on the table.

Despite the benefits of wind energy and widespread public support for federal policies to promote renewable energy, fossil fuel interests and their allies in Congress are vigorously opposing the PTC and ITC, Bannon added.

“Development of renewable energy in Maryland is critical for our state’s sustainable future,” said state Senator William Ferguson, a Democrat from Maryland’s 46th district. “We need to act swiftly to encourage the production of renewable wind power in our state.”

“As our state is still healing from Hurricane Sandy and other extreme weather events this summer, we must invest wisely in a future with cleaner air, fewer extreme weather events, and smart use of our water resources,” said Bannon. “Time is running out. We thank our legislators who have supported wind energy, and urge them to do all they can to extend the renewable energy production tax credit and offshore wind investment tax credit before the end of the year. We also urge our state leaders to pass an offshore wind bill in the General Assembly in 2013. Our clean air, water, and children’s future depend on it.”