The Art Of The Steal: How The Green Graft Works

The Chicago-based Exelon Corp. was planning a merger with Maryland’s Constellation Energy. To obtain approval for the merger, Exelon agreed to pay the state $1 billion. Credit: Taylor McKnight. License: Shutterstock.

By: James Simpson | Capital Research Center

The Greatest Heist in World History

How the Green Graft Works: One Example

The state of Maryland had a unique opportunity to fix Chesapeake Bay pollution in 2011—supposedly the big concern among Maryland’s elite—but instead, it squandered the chance by focusing on pet ideological projects and/or wasteful boondoggles for then-Governor Martin O’Malley’s political pals. The Chicago-based Exelon Corp. was planning a merger with Maryland’s Constellation Energy. Exelon owns the 100-year-old Conowingo Dam, which needs dredging. Every time a big storm comes along, the Dam spills massive amounts of sediment and nutrients into the bay, smothering the oyster beds, now almost nonexistent in the upper bay. The Conowingo is the greatest single source of Bay pollution, dwarfing all others.

To obtain approval for the merger, Exelon agreed to pay the state $1 billion. No analysis of merger benefits or costs, just a big payoff. If O’Malley were truly interested in the environment, he would have demanded Exelon spent some of the $1 billion cleaning up the Conowingo. But none, zero, was requested to address the sedimentation problem. Instead, O’Malley showered that $1 billion on green projects that, just like Obama’s program, guaranteed lots of green for the governor’s friends, but saddled Marylanders with expensive, unsustainable, green energy.

My favorite was $89–$157 million for a new powerplant fueled by chicken excrement. The idea was a favorite of O’Malley buddy and Attorney General Doug Gansler. As of 2021, when Gansler geared up for a second run for governor, he was still talking about it, but that’s all it was: talk. What happened to the money?

Given that they agreed to this billion-dollar payment, Exelon wasn’t interested in talking about dredging. Governor Larry Hogan suggested a $250 million dredging project in 2015, with most of the cost absorbed by Exelon. They weren’t buying. O’Malley missed a genuine opportunity to “Save the Bay” by using part of that $1 billion he extorted to dredge. But he had better things to do with it.

About the same time, O’Malley’s chief of staff and boyhood friend, Michael Enright, quit his job to take a position as managing director of Beowulf Energy, a firm looking to capture leasing rights for the offshore wind project being contemplated. Enright’s move paid off almost immediately. In early 2011, Beowulf formed Maryland Solar, LLC, and won expedited approval for constructing a wind farm in two months, a process that usually takes two years.

By July, Maryland Solar had its license and leasing rights to build the state’s then largest solar energy farm on 250 acres owned by the Maryland Correctional Institute (MCI) near Hagerstown, Maryland. It was the only bidder for the lease, which is supposed to be a competitive process. The cost of this project was $70 million and would power up to 2,700 homes, 0.1 percent of Maryland’s 2.3 million residences. This $70 million project would supplant current capacity, already adequate to handle new demand, so it was totally unnecessary.

Maryland Solar was to receive a $24 million subsidy from the federal government. But here’s the real kicker. The firm also secured a buyer for 100 percent of its electricity output once the facility was complete. FirstEnergy, a company that merged with Alleghany Power in February 2011, proudly announced its commitment to purchase all the output for 20 years and pay the state $460,000 to lease the property for that period. FirstEnergy did this to fulfill “its renewable energy commitment pursuant to the negotiated settlement between FirstEnergy and the State as a condition of its merger with Allegheny Power.”

Governor O’Malley secured commitments from FirstEnergy to do this as part of the merger agreement. Maryland Solar did not even have a website and when this story broke, and Beowulf Energy’s site said “coming soon.”

FirstEnergy stated, “The agreement provides the Maryland Solar project the source of guaranteed revenue necessary to obtain financing for its construction.” In other words, without Governor O’Malley’s scheme forcing FirstEnergy to buy expensive solar power, the entire enterprise could never find anyone foolish enough to invest in it.

While the solar project bragged adding 125 temporary construction jobs in Maryland, long-term labor costs are low as inmates at MCI provide routine maintenance. U.S. taxpayers and Maryland citizens will be forced to cross-subsidize this boondoggle through higher taxes and electrical rates. Commenting on the fact that his friend put this whole deal together, O’Malley saw nothing wrong and mere commented, “Given the strides that this project will make to achieving our renewable energy portfolio, I only wish Mr. Enright had joined the private sector earlier rather than later.”

It’s amazing what you can do in the private sector when friends in government guarantee your success. Mr. Enright is no longer associated with the operation, very likely having cashed out early on. Maryland Solar is now Arevon.

Despite O’Malley’s ambition to become known for green policies, he, his cronies, the state legislature, and the entire radical environmental movement they support seem to be much more concerned with the kind of green you can shove in your pockets. His flagrant disregard for the existential threat posed by Conowingo sediment, and preoccupation with “green” energy boondoggles belie a stunning hypocrisy and systemic institutional corruption. The real-world consequences are further hemorrhaging of Maryland taxpayer dollars and continued environmental calamity that will delay if not doom the prospects for the Chesapeake Bay’s recovery. Today, solar and wind farms saturate the Maryland countryside, and county after county is battling further solar development:

Across Maryland, as clean energy advocates and the solar industry work to meet the state’s ambitious mandate of having at least 14.5 percent of the state’s energy produced by solar power by 2030, counties are battling what they see as an infringement of their longstanding control over land use and zoning.

As of December 2022, 197 companies were dealing with solar energy and 86 solar installations. Collectively, these installations provide a mere 4.85 percent of Maryland’s energy needs.

In the next installment, even with nuclear and hydroelectric, net zero is not attainable.


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