Few if any issues are as important to the future health, economic sustainability and quality of life of communities around the world than climate change and clean energy. And as we’ve seen at two separate town hall events in Prince George’s County and Montgomery County these past two weeks, Marylanders know it.
Approximately 100 local residents showed up for each of the Silver Spring and Temple Hills forums – the first of a series of 6 town halls that the Marylanders for Offshore Wind coalition are holding across the state before the 2012 General Assembly. Both audiences showed strong support for the Governor’s proposal to construct a 400 – 600 megawatt wind farm off of the coast of Ocean City, echoing the findings of a recent poll which showed that well near 70% of residents of Maryland’s Washington area suburbs favor the proposal.
The forums also drew the participation of state lawmakers and elected officials including Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown who spoke at Prince George’s Forum, and Delegates Ben Kramer and Aisha Braveboy who sit on the General Assembly committee considering the legislation.
Among the hot-button issues panelists addressed was the small bump from offshore wind that ratepayers would face on their energy bills. Though experts with the Maryland Energy Administration have found that bump would not exceed 2 dollars a month, some politicians and pundits have expressed skepticism about Marylanders’ willingness to pay. But here again, the town hall attendees reaffirmed the poll results by expressing overwhelming willingness to invest the cost of a cup of coffee a month for local, clean offshore wind power. At one point the Montgomery County audience even broke into applause when one attendee voiced her incredulity that there should even be a serious debate over this issue of a small cost given the major benefits Marylanders stand to gain.
At the Prince George’s County event, community members seemed particularly impressed by the health and environmental justice benefits of the wind project. Kari Fulton of the Environmental Justice and Climate Change Initiative spoke passionately about the need for communities of color – historically the bearers of the brunt of dirty energy pollution – to engage in efforts to build the new clean energy economy, while Fred Tutman of the Patuxent Riverkeeper looked at the impacts of local fossil fuel pollution sources including Prince George’s County’s Chalk Point coal plant.
The upshot of the events?: Communities that are now better informed and more engaged on a project that is vital to their future, and key state leaders who now appear more committed to making that project happen. As the Chesapeake Climate Action Network’s Tom Carlson put it while Delegate Aisha Braveboy nodded beside him, “We’re going to work together and do everything we need to do to get this thing done.”
Help keep the momentum going, click here to sign up for upcoming “Wind Works” town halls in the Baltimore area and the Eastern Shore.