Monday, January 23, 2012

Polls Say Marylanders Willing to Pay A Little Extra for Environment // Gov. O'Malley Announces Septic & Wind Plans

Two recent public opinion polls in Maryland indicate that an overwhelming majority of residents continue to support environmental protections in the Free State. Moreover, Marylanders appear willing to pay modest increases in certain fees to support these policies. Maryland Reporter last week wrote:
A new poll found that 62% of rural respondents favored tighter regulations on septic systems, and 57%  favored “limiting the number of septic systems in rural areas....”
Erik Michelson of the South River Federation said the 62% figure on septic systems in rural areas came from a mix of households on municipal water systems as well as septic, but he said residents of outlying areas where septic was more prevalent still showed greater than 50% support for tighter regulations as well as on paying more into the Bay Restoration Fund.

Nearly two-thirds of Marylanders statewide (63%), support a higher flush tax increase if “state leaders and scientists said more tax dollars were needed,” and if respondents “thought the amount was fair,” according to the survey....

The survey also showed respondents were unaware of the condition of the Bay — 52% said they were surprised that restoration efforts were halfway complete. When respondents learned of the progress, nearly 80% said a greater effort is needed “to finish the job.”
It may be surprising for some to see that many rural and shore residents are not lockstep behind the Republicans on these issues. After all, the Maryland GOP has been hoping to turn environmental issues like wind energy and septic controls into winning campaign issues. They've gone on rightwing radio, taken to the blogs, and brought back Ellen Sauerbrey -- all in the name of stopping a so-called "War on Rural Maryland." It appears that the Fox News tactic of repeating misinformation does not work on everyone.

Likewise, Republicans have been trying to trash the idea of wind energy in Maryland. But environmentalists are hailing the results of a January poll showing strong support for wind power:
The poll specifically focused on examining trends in support in some key regions throughout the state. Statewide and across the key regions surveyed – Baltimore County, Prince George’s County, the Lower Eastern Shore, and Baltimore City – voter support for offshore wind power reaches a solid majority that approaches two-thirds of voters, despite a potential $2 per month cost to households. Significantly, support for offshore wind power is strongest on the Lower Eastern Shore.

In part, this support may be explained by the more than two-thirds (71%) of voters statewide who expect the cost of fossil fuels to rise over the next few years. A near-majority (48%) expect the cost of fossil fuels to rise “a lot.” Additionally, a majority of voters believe the state needs to “move towards renewable sources like wind power.” Three-quarters (76%) of voters support this view.
These numbers must be giving Governor O'Malley renewed optimism for a wind power fight. The Baltimore Sun today reported that he is rolling out a revamped program for Maryland:
Gov. Martin O'Malley is to unveil today a new approach to promoting offshore wind power that he hopes the General Assembly will find easier on consumers than last year's plan. The new approach borrows ideas from a New Jersey bill signed by Republican Gov. Chris Christie, according to O'Malley administration sources. 
Gone from this bill will be any charges to consumers before power from the envisioned wind farm — to be situated 10 miles off the Ocean City coast — actually begins to turn on the lights. The new, cleaner power could require electricity customers to pay an extra $2 a month, but there would be a hard-and-fast cap on those added costs, the sources say.
In a sweetener for the power industry, the administration has scrapped the old bill's requirement that utilities sign long-term contracts under which they would have had to purchase off-shore wind energy. Opposition to that provision helped torpedo last year's bill....

The legislation will be a second chance for O'Malley to win national recognition as a leader in the effort to develop energy sources other than the fossil fuels that scientists say contribute to climate change. The governor also is expected to promote the plan as a way of creating jobs in so-called "green" energy industries — 1,800 in the construction phase and 360 once a wind farm is operating.
Maryland Juice will be keeping tabs on these proposals. Stay tuned!

No comments:

Post a Comment