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O'Malley To Sign Waste-to-Energy Bill

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) -- Gov. Martin O'Malley said Tuesday he will sign a bill that enhances incentives for waste-to-energy plants, disappointing Maryland activists who had urged him to veto the measure because they said it treats waste burning the same as wind and solar energy for the purposes of meeting environmental goals.

O'Malley, a Democrat, said in a statement Tuesday that he decided to sign the bill shifting waste-to-energy into a top tier for renewable energy after careful deliberation. Maryland is aiming to generate 20 percent of its energy from top-tier renewable sources by 2022. To meet the goal, O'Malley said Maryland will require a diverse fuel mix including onshore and offshore wind, solar, biomass that includes poultry litter and waste-to-energy.

"Despite the success of recycling programs in our state, including in Harford and Montgomery counties, where existing waste-to-energy facilities coexist with robust recycling programs, the reality is that Marylanders generate tons of solid waste each day," O'Malley said. "If there is no waste-to-energy facility available, these tons of trash are simply dumped into landfills, no value is derived from the waste, and our state continues to rely on coal-fired generation to account for 55 percent of our energy needs."

Environmental groups said the bill is a step in the wrong direction that will erode the priority of pursuing cleaner renewable energy such as wind and solar.

"What this bill does is it makes a statement of renewable energy sources and their importance to the state of Maryland," said Kim Coble, Maryland director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. "And to make the statement that burning trash is something that we want to promote with the same vigor, the same energy, as we want to promote wind and solar is really misunderstanding the intention of the renewable portfolio standards."

The waste-to-energy bill came up for debate late in the legislative session that adjourned in April. The House of Delegates approved it 74-60. The vote was closer in the Senate, where it passed 24-20.

O'Malley noted that more than half of the states that have a renewable energy goal classify municipal solid waste as a renewable fuel.

"This legislation is but one part of a comprehensive solid waste management approach," O'Malley said.

The governor also said he is committed to bringing offshore wind to Maryland, after an offshore wind bill backed by O'Malley failed to pass in the session.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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