House and Senate Pass Different Bills Allowing Renewable Energy Facilities on Preserved Agricultural Land

A March 28 Baltimore Sun article reported that legislation (HB 861 / SB 259) that would allow farmers, under certain circumstances, to place renewable energy generation facilities on lands subject to preservation easement by the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation has passed both the House and Senate but with differences.  The General Assembly will either have to reach an agreement about the bills in conference committee or one house must accept the changes of other house in order for the bills to be reconciled and passed.

The 44-3 [Senate] vote would clear the way for farmers to enter into contracts with companies that produce energy from solar panels, windmills, chicken litter or cattle manure to use their land for those facilities in exchange for payment. Those payments would be on top of the money farmers had already received from the state for putting land into permanent conservation.

The House has already passed a similar bill, but the two chambers must pass the bill in identical form before it can go to the governor for his signature.

Both versions leave the decision whether to approve a farmer’s request to used conserved land for energy purposes up to the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation. Farmers would be limited to using five acres for energy generation and would have to pay 5 percent of their lease proceeds to the state for future farmland preservation.