Town will contribute to cost of lobbyist for municipal utilities
By Ally Lanasa, Staff Writer
(Nov. 12, 2020) The Berlin Mayor and Council on Monday agreed to play an active role in advancing Senate Bill 0677 and House Bill 1392 and provide a financial share for a lobbyist to help pass legislation to cap the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards for the five municipal electric utilities.
“There was a Senate Bill, Senate Bill 0516, that went into effect that had some impact on our electric utility,” Mayor Zackery Tyndall said. “What that bill has done is place a standard of renewable energy portfolio credits that need to be satisfied by each electric utility, and there are five municipal electric utilities in the state, Berlin being one of those. If you don’t satisfy the tier requirements, there’s something called an alternative compliance payment that you have to pay.”
As a result of Senate Bill 0516, Berlin electric utility customers have experienced higher rates.
The comparison of Senate Bill 0516 and Senate Bill 0677 and House Bill 1392 shows a distinct cost difference for electric utility customers.
Senate Bill 0677 and House Bill 1392, which were cross-filed in the Maryland General Assembly during the 2020 session, were advanced by Sen. Adelaide (Addie) Eckardt (R-37) and Delegate John (Johnny) Mautz IV (R-37B).
“With the legislation that’s being advanced, we hope that if it were to be successful that the town of Berlin could save a possible $2,044,504 from 2021 to 2030,” Tyndall said.
House Bill 1392 progressed through the House Committee on Economic Matters and made it to the floor of the House of Representatives for a vote, where it passed (108-27). The legislation has not made it any further because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Tyndall added that he, Town Administrator Jeff Fleetwood and Electric Utility Director Tim Lawrence have been participating in Zoom conferences about the legislation.
“The town of Berlin last cycle took a stance of support for Senate Bill 0677 and House Bill 1392, and we’re looking for that same encouragement and support from the town and the council along with the fact that Easton Utilities has gone forward with hiring a lobbyist from Old Line Government Affairs,” Tyndall said. “His name is Brett Lininger.”
The total cost for the lobbyist is $45,000.
“Easton has taken on the additional contract of Old Line Government Affairs, but they have said if the other municipalities would like to chip in, you have some skin in the game,” the mayor said. “It’s a nice advocate resource for us as an electric utility, and that cost breakdown has been adjusted based off of the way renewable portfolio standards are calculated, so that’s based off of the load of each utility.”
The town’s share would be $2,858, which is in the spending limit of the mayor or town administrator. However, to show a united front, Tyndall sought the approval of the council for the expenditure.
Fleetwood said former Mayor Gee Williams had sent a letter to Sen. Mary Beth Carozza (R-38) asking for her support of the legislation before leaving office.
“What we will be doing if the council chooses to move forward with this is updating that letter to reflect the new change in administration, to reflect the new members of the council just so that our representatives do see a united force if that’s what the council chooses to do,” Tyndall said.
The council unanimously agreed to support the advancement of the legislation.