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At Tradepoint Atlantic, Moore breaks ground on offshore wind construction facility, signs climate bills

Gov. Wes Moore (D) held a rare outdoor bill signing at the Tradepoint Atlantic development in Baltimore County Friday. Photo from the Executive Office of the Governor.

Capping a week of climate-themed events, Gov. Wes Moore (D) traveled to Maryland’s biggest industrial development Friday to break ground on a new construction facility for the offshore wind energy industry and to sign three pieces of legislation designed to boost the state’s efforts to combat climate change.

After touring the massive Tradepoint Atlantic development in Baltimore County, where the Patapsco River meets the Chesapeake Bay, Moore joined dozens of dignitaries to hail the potential economic and environmental benefits of offshore wind. Tradepoint Atlantic is the site of the long-shuttered Bethlehem Steel plant at Sparrow’s Point, and several political, business and labor leaders said wind energy development will be an integral part of the renaissance of the massive property — and the state’s economic future.

“Maryland steel led the American economy in the 20th century and I want Maryland wind to lead the American economy in the 21st century,” Moore told the crowd of 200 assembled under a large tent in a gravel expanse a few hundred yards from the water.

Officially, Friday’s event was a groundbreaking for an advanced component center that Ørsted, one of two companies planning wind energy installations off the coast of Ocean City, is building. It’s where fabricated steel from a plant on the Eastern Shore will be shipped and then assembled into component parts that support the company’s wind turbines. The planned facility would provide about 125 new union jobs and 20 professional jobs.

But the ceremony was more than just a commemoration of one construction project. It was billed as ushering in a new era of climate action and economic innovation for the state.

“Today is a celebration of a lot of hard work,” Moore said. “A lot of push. A lot of courage. But today is also a sign of Maryland’s very, very bright future.”

The governor was joined on the dais and the speaking program by executives from Tradepoint Atlantic, Ørsted and Riggs Distler, a Dundalk-based infrastructure company that will be part of the construction project; Jermaine Jones, Baltimore director of the Baltimore-D.C. Metropolitan Building Construction Council; the state’s two U.S. senators, Ben Cardin (D) and Chris Van Hollen (D); Baltimore County Executive John Olszewski Jr. (D); and Lt. Gov. Aruna Miller (D).

“This is what it looks like when business, labor and government work together,” Jones said.

The federal officials noted that Maryland’s climate ambitions are now being supported by new federal programs that are providing funding and regulatory and technological help to fledgling green industries. Van Hollen noted that the U.S. Department of Commerce is providing $20 million for apprentice programs associated with the offshore wind construction at Tradepoint Atlantic.

David Hardy, Ørsted’s group vice president and CEO for the Americas, said “a new Maryland shore-to-shore industry is taking shape.”

Although most coastal Atlantic states are scrambling to build offshore wind energy developments — and associated industries on land — there are only seven turbines in U.S. waters so far, five off the coast of Rhode Island and two near Virginia Beach. But the industry is expected to ramp up fairly quickly, especially with a supportive administration in the White House. Even so, Ørsted and US Wind, Inc., the other company ticketed to build an offshore wind farm near Ocean City, are still awaiting final federal approval for the first phase of their projects.

A poster at Friday’s event shows some of the components for an offshore wind turbine that will be assembled at Tradepoint Atlantic. Photo by Josh Kurtz.

Ørsted’s advanced component center is the third operation the company is developing at Tradepoint Atlantic. Also under construction is a cable manufacturing facility and a staging center, where components will be assembled and then shipped to the Ocean City area.

Nearby on the Tradepoint Atlantic property, US Wind has invested in a port facility to service offshore wind development in Maryland and is building a steel fabrication facility, where the turbines will be built and assembled. US Wind CEO Jeff Grybowski was on hand at Friday’s ceremony and said his company is still aiming to begin offshore wind development in federal waters near Ocean City in 2025.

“It’s a big day for offshore wind,” he said in an interview. “There’s some tangible signs here that the companies in the industry are making progress. We love to see our neighbors succeed.”

Following the groundbreaking, which involved the dignitaries sticking shovels in an elongated, dirt-filled trough, a long table was placed in front of the stage, where Moore, Miller, Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City), House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County), Maryland Secretary of State Susan Lee and legislative clerks held a bill-signing ceremony — an event that rarely takes place outside of the State House.

With lawmakers, business and labor leaders, administration officials and environmentalists standing behind them, Moore and the presiding officers signed a bill to expand the offshore wind industry in the state, another to provide incentives for businesses and individuals to purchase electric trucks and install electric vehicle chargers, and a third that lays out strict standards for the sale of electric trucks in the state.

“A lot of times, when it comes to legislation, people think it just gets done,” Ferguson observed. “But what happens is, you need a lot of bright, passionate people sitting around the table trying to figure out how you get it done.”

Jones said that after the General Assembly passed the ambitious Climate Solutions Now legislation in 2022, “we got a lot of questions about how the state might meet those goals.” The bills Moore signed Friday, she said, will help the state achieve its stricter emissions standards.

While Friday’s hybrid event was widely praised by an array of stakeholders, House Republicans in Annapolis issued a statement decrying the “radical environmental legislation” Moore and the legislative leaders signed into law.

“The members of our Caucus fought tirelessly during the Legislative Session to defeat, or at least to improve these pieces of legislation,” said House Minority Leader Jason C. Buckel (R-Allegany). “These bills drive up the costs for consumers and small businesses, making Maryland’s high cost-of-living even more unsustainable.”

Despite the House GOP criticism, one Republican state senator, Johnny Ray Salling, a former steelworker whose district includes the Tradepoint Atlantic development, attended the ceremony and joined his Democratic colleagues who stood behind Moore as he signed the three climate bills.

This was the first remote bill-signing since 2021, when then-Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and the presiding officers traveled to Bowie State University to sign legislation boosting funding for Maryland’s historically Black colleges and universities by $577 million. In 2004, then-Gov. Bob Ehrlich (R) signed a sewage treatment bill, known as the “flush tax,” at City Dock in Annapolis, down the street from the State House.

Earlier this week, Moore spotlighted his administration’s commitment to fighting climate change by speaking at a national climate conference in Washington, D.C., and then attending the ceremonial installation of rooftop solar arrays at an apartment complex in Gaithersburg.

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At Tradepoint Atlantic, Moore breaks ground on offshore wind construction facility, signs climate bills