Farmers protest bill that would threaten Somerset County wind farm

ANNAPOLIS, Md. - Debate over a bill aimed at halting development of an Eastern Shore wind farm heated up in Annapolis Tuesday, with Maryland farmers protesting the pending legislation.

Environmental leaders also sent a letter to the Maryland Senate, asking lawmakers to kill House Bill 1168.

“If passed, it would effectively shut down an emerging $1 billion wind industry on the Eastern Shore,” read the letter, signed by 15 environmental groups.

The bill, sponsored by the Southern Maryland Delegation, passed the House last month. It would place a 13-month moratorium on wind power projects in all or part of a dozen counties in Maryland, said Kelly Trout, a spokeswoman for Chesapeake Climate Action Network.

The legislation, if it becomes law, is expected to kill a $200 million wind farm planned for Somerset County.

Lawmakers in favor of the bill have expressed concerns that the project could threaten military radar testing at the Patuxent River Naval Air Station in St. Mary’s County.

In a statement, the former director of the U.S. Department of Defense Siting Clearinghouse, which oversees negotiations between military officials and renewable energy developers, said a wind farm would pose no danger to Pax River.

“Simply put, if the turbines aren’t spinning, there’s no interference,” former director David Belote said.

In advance of the hearing before the Senate Finance committee, farmers drove a pair of tractors decorated with miniature windmills and Maryland state flags.

“This wind farm proposal will help the agriculture community with financial stability. It comes at a time when grain prices have dipped significantly from prior years,” Eddie Johnson, president of the Somerset County Farm Bureau, said in a news release. 

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