Have you heard the one about the Democratic Governor who is elected based on a promise to fight electric rate increases and after the election did everything in his power to INCREASE the cost of electricity for the average Maryland family?
The punch line is “he was re-elected.”
I think it’s quite impossible to argue that as Mayor O’Malley, the current Governor played up the BGE rate increase angle as best he could (a rate increase implemented because of former Democratic Governor Parris Glendening and vetoed by Bob Ehrlich). He had quite memorable ads saying that he would “Fight the Rate increases” and blamed it on the cozy relationship that Governor Bob Ehrlich had with the utility companies. The real kicker, after the 2006 election, O’Malley put a former Constellation Energy employee on the PSC. (For your Harford County angle, O’Malley “convinced” former Republican Harford County Delegate Chuck Boutin to resign by giving him a judgeship. The same Boutin who was caught using his State computer to talk to a prostitute when he was a Delegate).
So how did O’Malley work to increase your electric bill, and why? Well it’s all in the name of saving the planet and climate change. First, if you own a business you pay a whole heck of a lot to something called RGGI, or the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. It’s a cap and trade program that businesses have to pay for the carbon created in the generation of Maryland’s energy. Some of the money is actually transferred from businesses and given to residential customers, but only a small fraction. The rest of it goes toward pie in the sky things.
The majority of us though are just the ratepayers, we got to see several increases over the years, above and beyond the great 72% increase. In 2010 BGE got a $2 per month increase on the average bill, and then in July 2012 (right after the great response on the derecho) BGE applied for an additional $11.80 per customer. But those are costs that the Governor can’t control, they are the cost of doing business.
In order to continue to save the planet, and build a resume as being a leader on green energy, Governor Martin O’Malley has instituted a program called EmPower Maryland. This is an additional $2 for the average Marylander that goes toward doing energy conservation programs throughout the state. Ratepayers in Western Maryland were mailed CFL lightbulbs with the money for this program. It was a disaster for the local utility because bulbs broke, residents were confused, and when people realize they were paying for it, they got mad. If you go to a Home Depot you’ll see certain CFL light bulbs are a lot cheaper, that’s because your BGE bill is paying for them. The goal is to reduce energy consumption by 15% in 2 more years. (I tried to find out how close we are but StateStat isn’t tracking this).
The latest though is the wind mills. Governor Martin O’Malley wants to build a giant, $1.5 billion wind farm off the coast of Ocean City. To pay for it, they are going to increase your electric bill by another $2.50 per month AND require that all utilities purchase the power produced (no matter the cost, which would in turn raise utility prices even more).
The first year O’Malley proposed the bill it failed as legislators were wary about raising electricity prices. Last year O’Malley tried again, and included guarantees for union works in an effort to build support and it almost worked. The legislation passed the House but failed in the Senate because of three African American senators siding with the ratepayers over the special interest. This year, in a show of how crass politics can be, O’Malley has included guarantees for minority and small businesses to get a piece of the pie (AAAAHHHH THE WASHINGTON POST PAYWALL)
Oh, did I mention that the Governor’s former Chief of Staff and best friend since he was 14 is a managing director of a wind energy company that wants to build a power plant off the shore of Ocean City and coincidentally started working there in 2010, the same year that the Governor first proposed the legislation?