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Maine's Wind Law


In 2008 Maine's legislature enacted a Law that was designed to expedite the processing of wind energy projects. To read the statute, go to:

Title 35-A, Chapter 34-A: EXPEDITED PERMITTING OF GRID-SCALE WIND ENERGY DEVELOPMENT

 

 

Ex-Governor Baldacci's Plan


“Maine has been tremendous to us. Frankly, we wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for your
(ex-)governor. His commitment, all along the way and especially when he put together
the Wind Task Force, reinforced our commitment.”
                                                                     — Paul Gaynor, CEO of First Wind



baldacci“By Executive Order 31 FY 06/07, dated May 8, 2007, Ex-Governor Baldacci established the Governor's Task Force on Wind Power Development whose core duties include examination of the regulatory processes, review criteria and financing options currently applicable to wind power projects proposed in Maine; identification of potential barriers to their development; and recommendation of changes to state policies, regulatory requirements and financial incentives deemed necessary to facilitate siting wind power projects in Maine...” source: www.maine.gov/doc/mfs/windpower.htm.

He wanted the Task Force's final report no later than February 2008.

By this Executive Order, the Governor assembled a carefully hand-picked Task Force and charged them with the following three primary objectives:

1) To make Maine a leader in wind power development;

2) To protect Maine’s quality of place and natural resources;

3) To maximize the tangible benefits Maine people receive from wind power development.

The Task Force, after 12 meetings, produced an 80 page report entitled REPORT OF THE GOVERNOR’S TASK FORCE ON WIND POWER DEVELOPMENT. Click here to download the PDF version of this report.

The Task Force approved the report unanimously, stating that “Consistent with 'Mutual Understandings' among Task Force members agreed to early in the project, I concur with the content of the Report of Governor’s Task Force on Wind Power Development” (page 2). Remarkably, the capitalization of and the quotation marks around 'Mutual Understandings' is how it appears in the final report. Apparently the Task Force gave these words great significance and was less than comfortable with them. Is it any wonder that they concluded that “each of the goals established by Governor Baldacci can be achieved” (page 5)?

It's important to recognize that the Task Force's job was not to evaluate the appropriateness of developing wind energy facilities in Maine. It was not asked to determine whether the wind projects would be economically viable or would forever rely on taxpayer handouts and guarantees to operate. Apparently the Governor was comfortable ignoring the science and economics when he told the Task Force that their primary objective must be "to make Maine a leader in wind power development".

The Task Force decided that the Governor's stated goal of hosting at least 2,000 megawatts (MW) of installed wind power capacity by 2015, 3,000 MW by 2020, and 5,000 MW by 2030 was a reasonable one.

Let's look at what that goal will entail if all that capacity were built on land. By averaging the reported figures for Mars Hill, Stetson and Kibby Mtn projects, we find that each wind turbine, on average requires 3.5 acres of land to be cleared and 15,000 cubic yards of rock to be blasted/excavated. If we assume the Windustry continues to install 1.5MW turbines, we come up with the following:

  2015 2020 2030  
* recommended spacing between turbines is 5 to 10 times rotor diameter. We're assuming 7.5 times the rotor diameter of 271ft.    Source: National Renewable Energy Laboratory
Goal in MW 2,000 3,000 5,000  
Total # of 1.5MW turbines required 1,333 2,000 3,333  
Length in miles of a single row of turbines assuming a space of 7.5 times rotor diameter between each one* 582 873 1,455  


The distance between Kittery and Fort Kent is 306 miles. This means that Governor Baldacci's goal for 2015 is the equivalent of one long line turbines stretching from Kittery to Fort Kent and 90% of the way back!  The 2020 goal would stretch from Kittery to Fort Kent 2.85 times. The 2030 goal, 4.75 times. The following graphic may help you envision how many mountaintops and ridgelines will be sacrificed to achieve Gov. Baldacci's objectives:

 

The Task Force also determined that "in order for Maine to become a leader in wind power development, changes must be made in the regulatory process for wind power projects, and a planned approach must be established to help guide wind power projects to appropriate sites" (page 5).

In effect, the Task Force said that since Maine’s regulatory framework for large development projects such as wind power was created 40 years ago, it would require a number of specific changes to streamline the process for wind power permitting.

They created what is now called the "Expedited Windpower Permitting Area". Click here for a PDF file showing the map of the expedited area. It is interesting to note that the Task Force outlined a process by which LURC could, upon request by wind developers, extend the area designated for expedited permitting but specifically disallows the removal of any area from the expedited permitting area. In other words, the expedited permitting area can expand, but will never contract.

Within this area, the following very significant changes were made:

1) Consideration of a wind power project’s effect on scenic character is limited only to public resources of statewide or national significance. The scenic impact on your property and its loss of value is is irrelevent.

2) The entire expedited area has been rezoned so that industrial Wind projects are automatically be deemed "an allowed use".

3) In order to expedite the permitting process, outside expertise may need to be hired. It will be acceptable for DEP to accept money from the wind developers to cover such expenses.

4) The public will not be allowed to go to the Board of Environmental Protection for appeals. Appeals of indiustrial wind projects will must go directly to the State Supreme Court. The public will have no access to intermediary courts as this will delay projects.

Click here to read or download a copy of Maine's Wind Law.

 

In short, the Task Force recommendations fast-track industrial wind development in an area covering two thirds of the state. The bill was passed by the legislature in just fifteen days with little to no public involvement or debate. The fact is that the Expedited Wind Law was to a large extent written by the wind developers themselves, whose primary interest is green money, not green energy. The law gives the go ahead for potentially 360 miles of industrial wind turbines on Maine's mountaintops. This will result in the building of thousands of miles of additional power lines and roads and will require the clearcutting of over 50,000 acres of carbon-sequestering forest lands.

And so the gold rush began. Mainers like former Governor Angus King Jr. suddenly became wind developers. Angus's son, Angus Kind III, became First Wind's VP of Mergers and Acquisitions. Kurt Adams, Chairman of the Public Utilities Commission accepted $1million in stock options from First Wind and shortly thereafter became First Wind's Chief Development Officer. Profiteers from out of state, many with no experience in or knowledge of wind energy, all swarmed to Maine to lease mountaintops in hopes of cashing in. With wind power generation on the decline in Europe, the U.S. offered a new, untapped market for foreign developers. Of all the United States, Maine is among the most attractive. Why? Consider this:

  • •  The Maine Wind Law assumes benefits of wind energy and eliminates debate.

    •  The Maine Wind Law establishes that wind energy is key to responding to climate change.

    •  The Wind Law makes permits all but automatic for wind projects.

    •  The Maine Wind Law limits the public's right to appeal a wind permitting decision.

    •  The state's three largest newspapers are 75% owned by Representative Chellie Pingree and her husband. Pingree is adamantly and vocally in favor of wind energy development in Maine and the editorial policies of these newspapers unashamedly promote wind development.

    •  Various programs like Tree Growth Tax status are available to reduce property taxes on wind projects.

    •  Maine has the country's highest RPS, guaranteeing an anxious market for the electricity.

    •  Under Baldacci, Maine had a lame duck Governor who shamelessly announced that when he left office he'd like to work in the Windustry.

    •  Maine ranked 46th in the “State Integrity Investigation” by three nonpartisan, national and international journalism and good government groups. The report characterized Maine's statehouse as "ripe for self dealing and corruption.”

    •  Much of the higher elevations in the Unorganized Territories is owned by timber companies. These companies are very receptive to leasing land for wind projects as it provides a new revenue stream. The timber companies are the largest employers and therefore many residents hesitate to speak out against wind projects.

    •  The average levels of education and income, particularly in the Unorganized Territories, are well below National average.

    •  The "Unorganized Territory" which comprises much of the state consists of small hamlets that rely on a single state commission to handle permitting.

    •  Because the population of Maine is low, the public is accustomed to and accepting of conflicts of interest among its elected officials that would be illegal in other states.

    •  Many Maine property owners winter in warmer climes. Developers are able to use the calendar to their advantage, scheduling public meetings and hearings for when the fewest people can attend.


 

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