Thank you all very much. Secretary Griffin, thank you for your leadership. And thank you all for your leadership as citizens. Robert Kennedy once described the greatest of freedom’s privileges as being the privilege to choose to be responsible for building a better future for our kids and for our grandkids and for future generations. And I think that’s why at your core and in your heart you came out here this early morning and why you’ve come to so many of the public hearings on this important issue.
Let me thank Senator Edwards and also Delegate Beitzel and all of the elected officials who are here, and also county commissioners, people like Fred Holiday and the others who are here with us today. Last time I was in Western Maryland I was approached by Mayor McCain because I was wearing a tie. (Laughter) And Asa said, “Don’t ever come out to Western Maryland wearing a tie again.” And now look how he’s dressed. So I listened, I’ve learned.
I also understand that there was a black bear that came running across here just about five minutes ago, before the event began. It was not the appearance of the news cameras that scared him off the mountain, it was Senator Edwards rounding the corner. (Laughter)
And I also just want to point out before we get to the business of today that for the last 14 months we’ve really been digging out of the basement, the big hole, the big deficit that was left to us, that really threatened a lot of our priorities. I know many of you are aware of the importance of the Rural Legacy Grants. We had to be able to preserve those. Rather than doing what had been done in the past and robbing Program Open Space and shortchanging the future in order just to pay our bills today, we preserved every dollar of Program Open Space for that open space. (Applause)
And one of the big natural threats that has been affecting a lot of the woodlands and the forests in Garrett County has been the gypsy moth. We were able to greatly increase dollars, thanks to Senator Edwards and Delegate Beitzel and other members of the General Assembly. We were able not only to preserve our gypsy moth containment and eradication dollars, we were actually able to increase the dollars for gypsy moth eradication. (Applause)
These are all the things that a reasonably thinking and responsible people should be doing. We all have our differences from time to time on policy. There’s always a tremendous public clamor to cut government – it’s become very fashionable. But we don’t want to cut government if it cuts out and damages the things that are our priorities, the things that make Garrett County what it is. The things that make it a place where people who appreciate God’s natural beauty and wonders can come and reconnect not only to nature, but also to their own souls. So we’re going to protect those priorities. We’re going to continue to protect those priorities, even in tough times.
It’s hard to think of Garrett County without realizing how very, very blessed we are as Marylanders to have this sort of beauty in our State. We have so many natural resources in our State of Maryland, even as small as we are geographically. This county, this land of Maryland’s highest mountain, our largest forest, our biggest freshwater lake, is certainly one of the most beautiful places not only in Maryland, but anywhere in this country. There’s an old Native American saying which teaches that we do not inherit the earth, we borrow it from our children. And just taking a look around here reminds all of us of that as well.
PROTECTING OUR ENVIRONMENTAL PRIORITIES
When Lt. Governor Brown and I took office and took that oath and agreed to do our very best to protect your priorities during this temporary time that you give us the power and the trust to make the important decisions, where the buck stops, we promised that we would do everything we could to expand the opportunity to learn, to earn, to enjoy the health of one another, but also importantly to enjoy the health of our environment — the land, the air, the water that all of us depend upon, not just for ourselves but to expand that opportunity for future generations.
Now, how many of you have turned out on one night or another for the public hearings that we had about the windmills proposed on these public lands? Show of hands.
Well, I’ll have you know that that testimony came rapidly to me from Secretary Griffin, through the miracle of the State satellite and my Blackberry. And over the past year, working together as one Maryland, we’ve made some tremendous strides to building a more sustainable future. We’ve done a number of things, some of them I’ve mentioned, but others that come into play here with this announcement today.
We face a huge moral dilemma — not just as a State, not just as a country, but really as a planet — when it comes to developing new forms of energy, cleaner forms of energy, that are renewable and allow us to preserve the beauty that we have for future generations.
We have created a Climate Change Commission, we fought for and signed into law the Clean Cars Act. We launched Empower Maryland, setting some of the most ambitious goals in the nation to decrease our per capita consumption of energy by 15 percent by 2015. We led the charge to hold the first auction of greenhouse gas emission credits in the nation and to make solar energy more affordable and to prioritize smart growth.
And as part of that we also passed legislation that would encourage us to find new and renewable forms of energy for 20 percent of our energy portfolio, which brings us to this announcement today.
Part of that mix will be solar, part of that mix will be geo-thermal, part of that mix — we hope — will be cellulosic ethanol. Part of that mix will be things that we have not even imagined or discovered yet, but that we must. And part of that mix will also necessarily be wind power.
WIND ENERGY ANNOUNCEMENT
And that’s what brought us to this decision today. There was a request to put windmills right across that ridge of this publicly held land. And the challenge that created for us was if we want to make strides on having more renewable forms of energy, what is the balance that we have to strike when people come forward and say they would like to do this on publicly owned lands.
We listened to you, we listened to the scientists, we listened to those that are looking out for our energy future, and we listened to all of our fellow citizens. And we’ve made the best decision that we feel we must do in order to protect our priorities.
And that is this. We are announcing that we have decided not to open our State parks and public lands to wind power. (Applause)
I appreciate all of you, I really, really do. A person said to me as they introduced themselves, she said, I’m just a citizen. Well, you’re not just a citizen, you’re the people that all of us work for. You are our bosses. And I appreciate your suspension of cynicism and disbelief and taking part in a public process. That’s hard to do in this day and age, because there’s so much cynicism in this world.
We heard you and we are going to continue to look for opportunities to develop more renewable forms of energy in our State, to do so in a way that are not only renewable, but that are also sustainable and also, hopefully, affordable so that we don’t experience some of the jolts and shocks and spikes that we’ve seen as we move from a regulated to a deregulated environment.
But we also have to balance with that our sacred responsibility to the future. You know, in the preamble of the Constitution our founders talked about rights and they talked about freedoms. They also talked about security. And they talked about securing these blessings of liberty, if you will, not only for ourselves, but also for our posterity. And that’s what we’re committed to doing.
And the open lands and the open space are things that we absolutely have to do our part to preserve for future generations. Nobody is going to do that in this time for us. We can’t call on the souls of our grandparents and great-grandparents to do that for us. We have to find that within ourselves.
In the end, we could not justify the consequences that commercial wind would have on this land, this publicly held land in Garrett County. This precious resource is too valuable to our State, whether it’s for tourism, whether it’s for the headwaters of the bay, the Potomac and other things and for hunters, and the rest, for our fish and for our wildlife it provides a habitat, it helps improve our air quality.
NOT A REJECTION OF WIND ENERGY
But before I close, I also want to stress what this decision should not be misinterpreted to mean: this is not a rejection of wind power in the State of Maryland. It is not a rejection of wind power. I wish that our world were as simple and as thought out and mapped out for us that we could make those sorts of decisions of winners and losers. The truth is, we have to find a mix of more sustainable energy, we have to wean ourselves off this dependence on foreign oil and our constant subsidizing of the petro-Jihadists. We don’t want to have our kids bogged down for decades and decades in desert wars. And so, we have to develop more sustainable energy.
And part of that mix is, by necessity, going to be some wind power in our State, as part of our portfolio. But it is a decision to focus our efforts on promoting wind power on private sites, instead of in State parks and publicly held lands. We’re working on putting, for example, small windmills on schools, we’re exploring a variety of options for commercial scale on-shore and off-shore wind power.
But as we move forward and continue to find ways to harness the potential of various forms of renewable energy, we’re going to be sure to do so in a way that doesn’t threaten or cause us to lose forever precious open spaces and public lands like this one that all of you have fought so hard to protect.
Two decades ago, a great American philosopher by the name of Bob Dylan wrote, “Man thinks because he rules the earth he can do with it as he pleases. And if things don’t change soon, he will.” Today things are changing in our State. The Washington Post put it this way, they said that an “eco-friendly era has arrived in Maryland.”
We’re making progress because we’ve had the courage to come together as one Maryland to protect our priorities. And with your help and with your continued involvement, with open minds, with open hearts, and with the responsibility to the better future that we want to pass on to our kids, that’s what we’re going to continue to do. And we’re going to look to the people of Western Maryland to help us lead the way.
Thank you all very, very much. (Applause)