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Wind energy advocates encircle State House

It was an unusual sight Monday night as hundreds of people joined hands and encircled the State House to show support for wind power legislation.

More than 400 turned out to push for final passage of Gov. Martin O’Malley’s offshore wind energy bill, which passed the House of Delegates last week and must now clear the Senate. Activists rallied before forming the “circle of support” and were greeted by a number of lawmakers, including O’Malley himself, who urged the crowd to lobby their senators in the days before the General Assembly adjourns next week.

“We can guarantee ourselves a long-term hedge for a commodity whose price will not rise,” O’Malley said. “It would be absolutely nuts for us as an Atlantic state not to want to be one of the first to harness the most available renewable resource we have out there.”

The bill would erect 40 wind turbines 10 miles off the coast of Ocean City by 2017. It would also cap the household surcharge at $1.50 per 1000 kilowatt-hours, while businesses would pay a surcharge of 1.5% of total consumption.

Chants of “We want wind” echoed across Lawyers Mall as O’Malley exited the podium. He was followed by a long line of speakers, including several delegates and senators, who all echoed his call for lobbying, arguing that investing in wind energy would create jobs and help the environment.

After the speeches, the more than 400 rally-goers moved in a single-file line around the State House. Many held miniature wind turbines that glowed blue as they sang, “All we are saying is give wind a chance,” directed to the legislators inside. According to supporters it was the first time in recent memory, if not ever, that a group has encircled the State House.

Supporters have pushed hard for the governor’s bill, which has been downsized considerably from similar legislation that failed to pass the legislature last year.

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