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Offshore Wind Bill Moves Toward Vote In House

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) -- A scaled-back measure to develop offshore wind off the coast of Ocean City on Thursday moved toward a vote in the House of Delegates.

The House gave the bill initial approval after rejecting several amendments to change it. Delegate Dereck Davis, the chairman of the House Economic Matters Committee, says he expects a vote Friday.

The measure would cost residential utility customers about $1.50 a month. That's less than the $2 per month initially proposed in this year's bill, which is a priority of Gov. Martin O'Malley's. For commercial ratepayers, rate increases have been reduced from 2.5 percent to 1.5 percent.

The House rejected an amendment that would have made the $1.50 rate adjustable to the consumer price index. Now, the $1.50 rate is adjustable to 2012 dollars.

The House also rejected an amendment that would have limited the measure to allowing for one offshore windmill to one turbine, which would be used as a test. The amendment's sponsor, Delegate Ron George, R-Anne Arundel, noted that it's a strategy Virginia is pursuing.

Davis argued against the amendment, saying supporters of offshore wind in Maryland want to have it up and running by 2017.

O'Malley pushed for an offshore wind bill last year, but it failed to find enough support from lawmakers who were concerned about its cost. Last year's bill would have mandated utilities to enter into long-term contracts with offshore wind power producers. The current bill does not require mandatory contracts.

If the House passes the bill this year, it will still need to pass the state Senate before the April 9 adjournment.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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