He vetoed energy bill but Ehrlich sees light

Timing: As an override vote nears for his veto of an energy-efficiency bill, the governor appears in ads for the Energy Star program.

January 16, 2004|By Meredith Cohn | Meredith Cohn,SUN STAFF

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. -- fan or foe of energy efficiency?

It depends on which page of the newspaper you're reading.

As the General Assembly was poised today to override Ehrlich's veto last year of a bill to require state standards for energy efficiency on certain appliances, the governor was being featured in public service ads in newspapers and on radio urging people to buy energy-efficient products.

"The timing is extraordinary," said Del. William A. Bronrott, a Montgomery County Democrat who supported the standards bill. The House expects to take up the veto override today after the Senate voted 32-15 yesterday in favor of override. "That said, we do need to promote energy efficiency."

The governor has said repeatedly that he supports greater energy efficiency for savings and environmental protection. He vetoed the bill, Ehrlich said, because he believes the federal government should take the lead and impose uniform standards rather than have the states do so piecemeal. But this week's appearance of the ad campaign by the state's energy administration struck some as rich irony.

Sen. Paul G. Pinsky, a Prince George's Democrat and sponsor of the Senate bill on the measure, held up a copy of the ad in a newspaper yesterday on the Senate floor and noted the override of the self-proclaimed "energy governor."

Gigi Kellett, a spokeswoman for MaryPIRG, a consumer interest group that supported the bill, called the ad campaign "coincidental."

Cynthia Prairie, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Energy Administration, said her agency hoped to have the spots out earlier -- not for political reasons, but because a sales tax break on certain energy-efficient refrigerators and air conditioners expires in six months and the agency wanted to publicize that quickly.

The ads promote Energy Star, a program that encourages people to buy products labeled energy efficient by the federal government.

The ad campaign is to run all year. The first phase, promoting efficient lighting, will cost $138,000.

"We've been working on this for quite awhile," Prairie said. "We're just trying to get our message out."

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