Articles from Maine
After a floor debate featuring soaring rhetoric about democracy and self-determination, the House on Monday advanced a bill aimed at giving residents of Maine’s vast Unorganized Territory a new way to slow down wind development.
This is not about good wind vs. bad wind, folks. This is about citizens’ rights. Much research has been done to determine how this UT law change could have happened in the first place. Unfortunately, all the legal “i’s” were dotted and “t’s” were crossed. Barely. Developers and Environmental NGOs had more notice and access to the process than the citizens affected, but that’s another story for another day. The moral to that story is “watch your back at all times”, though.
"So windpower invades Maine, forces us to buy a billion dollars worth of something that we don't need," he says, "and that does us no good, ruining hundreds of square miles of classic Maine mountains, and ruining our economy, and this is something to celebrate?" Critics like O'Neil also accuse the wind industry of relying too much on federal subsidies.
“They are a motivated and organized trade association,” said Chris O’Neil, a lawyer for the Friends of Maine’s Mountains citizen group. “We continue to see Big Wind scrambling to build whatever projects they can before the honeymoon is over and their product totally falls out of favor.” O”Neil said that as federal subsidies for wind power dry up, the industry will find itself outperformed and priced out of the market by other generators.
The request-for-proposals is expected to be issued by the New England States Committee on Electricity, a nonprofit organization that represents the governors on regional electricity issues. Maine’s representative on the committee, Public Utilities Commission Chairman Thomas Welch, said on Monday that it was too early to know what shape the RFP would take, and when it would be issued.
A lawyer representing the side that challenged the deal and won the argument at the state’s Supreme Judicial Court said Thursday that the business venture shouldn’t be allowed to continue operating. “There is no approval of this. It has been vacated, nullified,” said Alan Stone, representing the Houlton Water Company.
During the coldest days of an especially cold winter, LePage said, Maine lawmakers were discussing rebates for solar energy, while a resident he heard about was huddled at home in an electric blanket. “Don’t ask the ratepayers to pay for it, because they can’t afford it,” LePage said.
Town officials will be developing an ordinance to regulate wind energy projects after residents voted Monday to impose a six-month moratorium on such projects. ...The Columbia moratorium was approved by a 28-16 vote at the annual town meeting. The town’s Planning Board sought the moratorium in order to allow time to consider enacting local guidelines for the project.
LePage admonished participants at the forum, many who are involved in clean-sector businesses focused on energy efficiency, biomass, solar and wind power, not to expect the public to foot the bill for the cost of research and development. A vocal opponent of Maine’s wind power policies and any additional costs they put on ratepayers, LePage indicated the state now seems to be favoring solar subsidies.
L.D.1791 was amended to keep the megawatt goals - a small victory for wind advocates - but the bill now also seeks to require developers to prove a project’s economic worth before receiving approval from the state’s Department of Environmental Protection. The original bill had included a goal, not a mandate, that a developer substantiate job creation and lower electricity rates.
In a ruling issued Monday, Kennebec County Superior Court justice Michaela Murphy overturned a controversial regulatory decision Aho made in June 2011 involving noise violations at a Vinalhaven wind farm, saying there was “no rational basis or relevant evidence” to support it. Aho’s decision, which reversed the recommendations of DEP staff and the Attorney General’s Office, was the exact outcome sought by Vinalhaven’s Fox Island Wind, which was represented by Pierce Atwood, the state’s largest law firm, where Aho had worked until earlier that year.
After three years of litigation, a Maine Superior Court decision has finally found in favor of wind turbine neighbors complaining about excessive noise from three nearby 1.5 megawatt GE wind turbines. Although citizens across the United States living near wind turbines are complaining -- including lawsuits against wind turbine operators -- this is the first court case where a state judge has found against a state agency charged with enforcement; the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.
When those customers are generating power from their own energy sources, they’re not buying power from CMP, thereby reducing the company’s revenue. CMP wants to charge those customers a special rate to reflect the fact that even though they aren’t buying power all the time, they expect CMP to provide them with reliable distribution service. It’s an issue in other states, too, as power companies adapt to increasing power generation “behind the meter,” on-site by small-scale producers.
The bill as amended adds new criteria to the state's wind-energy goals, including one that says new grid-scale wind power projects in Maine must show how they will reduce the price of electricity, create jobs and bolster the state's manufacturing industries prior to approval for construction by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.
Six years into a state plan to charge ahead with wind development, the game may be changing. Gov. Paul LePage has put forth a bill that would shift the goal posts and redefine what the state expects from its wind projects. While the LePage administration argues that the state can and should switch strategies, pro-wind interests say the bill is just the latest attempt to tackle the industry before it can gain any yardage.
At issue is the role of each company in the electricity market. Emera distributes electricity. First Wind generates it, through wind turbines. When Emera joined with First Wind in 2012 to create a new power generating company, that presented a problem, says Eric Bryant, senior counsel with the Maine Public Advocate. "Because it controls the poles and the wires, it could do things to its grid that would favor one type of generator over another," Bryant says.
The court’s decision puts into question the validity of the deal among the four companies. The deal was undertaken after getting PUC approval; if that approval is invalid, can the deal still stand? “It does create a certain moment of awkwardness as to exactly what the status quo is at this point,” said Welch. “We’re certainly going to be soliciting the views of all the parties in the case as to what they think the implications of this are.”
Today the Maine Supreme Judicial Court vacated the Public Utilities Commission decision that illegally allowed a merger between Canadian utility Emera and Boston wind generation developer First Wind.
Maine set ambitious goals to spur wind power development but now Republican Gov. Paul LePage says the targets don’t really help the state and are so far out of reach as to be meaningless, so why have them?A bill recently introduced by the governor would do away with the megawatt targets and replace them with goals to expand economic opportunities and lower electricity prices.
The 12 long-term wind power purchase agreements (PPAs) equal an impressive 409 MW from three projects in Maine and New Hampshire; however, due to issues regarding three other wind farms, the deals still represent 156 MW less than what Massachusetts' utility companies had originally proposed last year.