The bill, SB684, pushed by environmentalists, would phase out the ability of paper facilities to cash in on Maryland's renewable energy law by burning "black liquor," a tarry byproduct of the pulping process, and other wood waste to power their operations.
Under the 2004 law, paper mills collectively received $3.8 million in 2011 by selling "renewable energy" credits to companies supplying power to Maryland's households and businesses. The state's electricity customers pay slightly higher rates to cover the cost of the credits.
Environmentalists contend far more subsidies are going to paper mills for an "old" form of energy, rather than to the wind and solar power projects they contend the law was supposed to encourage. But the paper industry is fighting to hang onto its lucrative credits, particularly the New Page Corp., which owns the state's only paper mill in Luke in
The bill's supporters tried to finesse lawmakers' concerns about the Luke mill by offering to amend the measure so that it could continue receiving renewable energy credits for another five years. Though the mill's manager wrote a letter tentatively accepting the deal, his corporate chiefs later rejected it.
With the compromise unraveled, the
"I just needed an understanding where this whole thing was going," said Sen. Thomas M. Middleton, the Finance Committee chairman. The Charles County Democrat was among those on the panel who switched votes to revive the bill.