Leveling the playing field

Since Maine’s wind energy act became law in 2008, the energy playing field has been tilted sharply in favor of wind developers and against the state’s citizens and the environment in which they live. Every effort to modify that law has been rebuffed by the Maine Legislature.

Dan Remain of Cushing wants to do something about it and has mounted a campaign for a citizens initiative that would repeal or amend sections of the law to level the playing field and restore citizens’ rights. Remain explains his campaign in a guest column that currently appears on the Friends of Maine’s Mountains web site.

“The wind law is so slanted in favor of the wind developers and so slanted against the citizens of Maine that the Maine Office of Energy and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection have recommended that the law be modified,” he wrote. “In over 20 attempts, frustrated citizens and conservation groups have gone to Augusta submitting bills to modify the law, but the legislature has refused to even consider them.”

The thrust of the citizens initiative proposal is to eliminate the special expedited permitting process for wind energy projects and allow decisions on those permits to be based on science and empirical evidence, says Remain. His proposal would:

  • Restore to citizens who live in two-thirds of the state their voice in local wind project permitting.
  • Restore the right of Maine citizens to appeal wind energy permitting decisions in Superior Court.
  • Eliminate arbitrary and unreasonable wind energy goals that create artificial demand and disrupt free markets.
  • Require a wind developer to obtain a Public Benefit Determination proving that Maine needs the additional electricity generation; that the electricity generated by Maine wind facilities will be for the benefit of Maine citizens; that turbine noise emissions meet American National Standards Institute criteria; and that a bond is included to cover 100 percent of the cost of decommissioning the turbines and restoring the landscape when the project no longer is viable.
  • Challenge assumptions in the wind law that, as a result of wind development, fossil fuel energy facilities will be closed; energy independence will be achieved by reducing our use of foreign oil; CO2 emissions will decline and climate change will be controlled; and wind energy will have only positive benefits for health and environment.

Remain hopes to get the measure on the ballot for the November 2015 election, but time is short. To bring the petition before the Legislature, the more than 50,000 required signatures must be obtained by Jan. 22. Once those signatures are verified, the Legislature has the option of enacting the legislation or sending it to the voters as a ballot measure. Those wishing to help should contact Remain at (207) 354-0714 or email [email protected]

Maine — and the nation — have had ample time to realize that the wind industry has never fulfilled its promise in the three decades since state and federal governments began doling out tax credits and subsidies. The industry continues to claim it needs special consideration and taxpayer support, even as developers have tucked millions upon millions of dollars into their own pockets.

Americans for Prosperity President Tim Phillips wrote, in a recent Wall Street Journal column, that the federal production tax credit bestowed upon the wind industry has cost U.S. taxpayers $7.3 billion over the past seven years. Investors realize that wind farms “make little financial sense if the taxpayer isn’t picking up the tab,” said Phillips.

Mainers were sold a bill of goods when former Governor John Baldacci and a carefully selected task force pushed special treatment for wind developers through the Legislature without debate in 2008.

An end to that special treatment is long overdue.