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Maryland Gov. Hogan launches task force to tackle conflicts over solar, wind energy projects

Gov. Larry Hogan announced Wednesday that he would launch a task force to examine conflicts over renewable energy projects, weeks after Maryland’s highest court dealt a blow to residents concerned about the spread of solar and wind farms.

The Governor’s Task Force on Renewable Energy Development and Siting will explore how the state can promote clean power while minimizing the impact large solar and wind projects can have on rural communities. Projects that can stretch across dozens of acres have stirred conflict across the state, raising concerns about loss of productive farmland, disruption of scenic vistas and removal of trees.

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Hogan charged the group with providing him with its initial findings by the end of 2019, and with final recommendations within a year.

Greg Snook, former president of the Washington County Commissioners and current CEO of the Hagerstown-Washington County Industrial Foundation, will chair the task force. Other members will include designees of the state’s top agriculture, environment, energy, natural resources, planning and transportation officials.

The panel is being created amid concerns from county governments that their power to control where solar and wind projects go may be diminished going forward. Maryland’s highest court ruled in July that state utility regulators have the final say when it comes to approval and siting of large power generation projects.

Renewable energy developers and their supporters, on the other hand, say local opposition to projects has slowed the spread of green power infrastructure in Maryland.

Half of the state’s energy must come from renewable sources by 2030 under a law that came into effect without Hogan’s signature this year. The state is on track to meet an earlier goal of 25 percent renewable energy by 2020.

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