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Mikulski language would halt Pax River wind farm

WASHINGTON -- Citing "very serious" concerns about the project's impact on Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski included language in a military spending bill that would delay the construction of a massive wind farm on the Eastern Shore.

The provision, if approved, would halt the project despite efforts by Gov. Martin O'Malley this year to move it forward. O'Malley, a fellow Democrat, vetoed state legislation in May that would have imposed a 15-month moratorium on the construction of land-based wind farms.

Mikulski and other federal officials -- notably, Southern Maryland Rep. Steny Hoyer, who represents the base -- have voiced concerns that the turbines could interfere with radar tests at the base, and they have called on the Navy to halt the project until a pending Massachusetts Institute of Technology study can assess the potential impact.

"Very serious reservations about the impact of this project on Patuxent River Naval Air Station's ability to do its job have been raised," Mikulski said in a statement. "This MIT study should be completed before next steps are taken to make sure PAX's test range is not disrupted and that the Eastern Shore can continue to pursue its green energy initiative."

It's not clear whether Mikulski's language on the wind farm, first reported by The Associated Press, will ever become law. The wording was tucked into a $550 billion defense appropriations measure that was approved by her committee this month. However, Congress has stalled on spending bills and is expected to instead fund the government with a separate, short-term spending measure in September.

But its inclusion in the bill signals Mikulski and others in the state's congressional delegation are prepared to look for ways around O'Malley's veto. The governor, through a spokesman, declined to comment Friday.

O'Malley has previously said that federal regulatory rules already in place would protect Pax River from interference by the wind turbines and that the moratorium would have conflicted with the state's long-established goal of increasing renewable energy.

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