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Clean-energy backers rally for override of Hogan veto

Advocates for a clean energy bill rallied to urge lawmakers to overturn Gov. Larry Hogan's veto.

The sponsors of legislation that would increase the amount of energy Maryland utility customers get from renewable sources called Thursday on the General Assembly to override Gov. Larry Hogan's veto of that bill.

The legislature could consider overturning Hogan's veto as early as next week, when lawmakers gather in Annapolis for their annual 90-day session.

The governor showed this week he was ready for a fight on the issue. He labeled the measure a "sunshine tax" because it would — for a period of years — require rate increases to pay for the additional cost of wind and solar power.

Proponents countered that the increases would cost ratepayers no more than 58 cents a month. They argue that the extra costs would be temporary and would be offset by a boost to Maryland's economy caused by increased investment in "clean energy" jobs.

Kevin Sheen, spokesman for the solar and wind power company Empower, estimated rates would be slightly higher for five to seven years before savings outweigh costs.

Amelia Chasse, a spokeswoman for Hogan, said the governor has consistently supported efforts that promote clean air and clean water. "However, the governor will not do this at the expense of Maryland's ratepayers," Chasse said.

Andrew Gohn, representing the American Wind Energy Association, said there's been a significant reduction in the cost of wind energy in recent years. By failing to increase its commitment to renewable energy sources, "Maryland risks losing out on well-paying jobs," Gohn said.

The legislation would raise the percentage of Maryland's electric power that comes from renewable energy sources from 20 percent to 25 percent by 2020.

The Democratic sponsors of the legislation, Sen. Brian Feldman and Del. C. William Frick of Montgomery County, both sought to link Hogan's veto to the views of President-elect Donald J. Trump, a climate change skeptic.

"We're here because the Trump of State Circle decided this is good politics," Frick said. He said that people like Trump "would make Ocean City ocean again" — a reference to the threat of rising sea levels caused by climate change.

Chasse said proponents of the bill "need to get their facts straight." She noted Hogan signed legislation in 2015 to expand the Maryland Commission on Climate Change.

An earlier version of this article misidentified a representative for the American Wind Energy Association. He is Andrew Gohn.

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