With offshore wind gone, Assembly pushes energy from manure

With an O'Malley administration bill seeking to boost offshore wind development effectively dead, the General Assembly approved another bill to promote projects that would produce energy from poultry manure and wood.

SB237, which would provide incentives to place giant wind turbines off Ocean City, has yet to come to a vote in the Senate Finance Committee.  Environmental groups, many of whom had made the measure a top priority, threw in the towel late in the day, issuing a press release expressing their disappointment with the General Assembly's failure to pass the measure for a second straight year.

Not all environmental activists would be disappointed with that outcome, as some oppose wind turbines because of their impacts on migratory birds and bats, while others question turbines' reliability for the costs of building them.

While offshore wind ran out of steam, another energy bill slipped through that also divided green groups. SB1004, which won final House approval tonight, would make "thermal biomass systems" that either burn or compost animal manure and wood eligible for the same lucrative renewable energy credits as are solar and wind projects.

The bill, introduced by Sen. Thomas M. Middleton, D-Charles, was pushed by the Chesapeake Bay Commission, a tri-state legislative body, to encourage other uses for poultry and farm animal manure than being spread on crop fields.  Runoff of manure and other fertilizer is a significant source of nutrient pollution fouling the bay, according to scientists.

Though backed by some environmental groups, others opposed it, questioning the potential for air pollution from incinerating animal manure.




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