Gov. Martin O'Malley and the Public Service Commission are doing their best to save Maryland from Constellation Energy.
Just when the state was plunging into its biggest recession since the early 1990s, Constellation threatened to spend $8 billion and create 4,000 construction jobs on a new nuclear power plant on the Chesapeake.
Fortunately, the commission has ordered endless, expensive, irrelevant hearings that are likely to make Constellation and its partner, EDF Group, give up. So diligent is O'Malley that his energy department tried to suppress testimony from the commission's own expert showing that Marylanders would save a billion dollars over eight years from the new electricity supply and resulting lower prices.
Constellation and EDF had talked about starting construction on the plant this year. They wanted to sign their partnership contract by mid-September.
But the PSC started holding hearings even though the companies' nuclear business has little to do with Baltimore Gas & Electric, which is what the PSC regulates.
Then the commission extended the hearings. Then on Friday it extended the extension, making it likely that the companies will blow their next deadline for signing a contract on Oct. 30.
If not for the brave resistance of the PSC, Maryland's impressive record of creating hardly any nongovernment jobs this decade would be in jeopardy. Besides the construction workers it would require, a new Calvert Cliffs plant would also need 360 highly paid, permanent employees.
Besides, finalizing the Constellation-EDF partnership this year would produce $130 million in corporate income taxes for Maryland, the companies estimate. Of course we're not going to let them inflict that on us, either, without a fight. This state doesn't need tax dollars any more than it needs jobs.
I know what you're thinking. O'Malley has his priorities wrong. He's focused on Constellation and EDF when there are dozens of other organizations plotting to bring prosperity to Maryland.
Prominent among them is the Pentagon, which insists on moving as many as 40,000 defense-related jobs to the state between now and 2015. Realignment of government and private-contract jobs from bases in New Jersey and Virginia should make Maryland's housing recovery much stronger than those in other states.
Towson University has figured these jobs will pay $70,000 on average.
What does O'Malley do? He eggs the Pentagon on! He invests in roads and mass transit to make it easier for companies and agencies to move here.
He creates a base-realignment subcabinet and appoints Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown as its leader. Brown goes around talking about "jobs, jobs, jobs" from realignment - as if that were a good thing.
Watch out for the National Institutes of Health. They're giving out $5 billion in research grants, a huge chunk of which will go to the Johns Hopkins University, the University of Maryland, Baltimore and other Maryland institutions, The Baltimore Sun reported last week.
In all, 441 grants will go to Maryland. You know what that means. More jobs. Research that extends lives and eases suffering. A jolt for the life-sciences industry, which is Maryland's best economic hope. Hopkins regularly gets more than $1 billion a year in NIH research grants.
Where are the PSC hearings on this? Are there no lawyers? Are there no $200-an-hour experts, no PowerPoint shows on the hazards of strengthening Maryland's medical and economic future?
Constellation and EDF aren't the only ones brandishing new supplies of clean, renewable energy at Maryland.
Swebo Bioenergy, which makes boilers that burn biofuel, recently opened its U.S. headquarters in Annapolis. Wavebob, an Irish company working on converting the power of the oceans to electricity, opened in Anne Arundel County. Companies such as Gaithersburg's Standard Solar are enabling schools, homes and businesses to make electricity out of sun rays, reducing the demand for the grid kilowatts the rest of us buy.
O'Malley obviously let them slip under the radar. They're not much of a factor now. But before you know it they could bloom into large businesses, offer to solve Maryland's electricity shortage and require the PSC to step in and stop them.
Look how close Constellation and EDF have gotten to launching their scheme.
At a time when Maryland's unemployment rate is twice what it was in 2007, when the state has lost 70,000 jobs in two years and electricity prices are at all-time highs, when tax revenues are plunging, when there is little other private-sector investment to stimulate the economy, you can't be too careful about these things.