In 2007, America was entangled in war with Iraq. Facing high oil and gasoline prices at home, Governor John Baldacci was concerned for Maine’s energy future. In the preceding few years, three grid-scale wind energy projects were proposed under Maine’s site location permitting process. Two projects (Mars Hill and Kibby) were approved; the third was fraught with problems and so it was denied. In all three cases, Maine’s traditional permitting process worked, but potential wind developers were unhappy about the case that was denied.
Wind developers and well-intentioned conservation groups saw an opportunity. Together they urged Baldacci to assemble a task force that would make permitting easier for wind energy applicants, made urgent by the world’s political and economic oil crisis. Energy experts were skeptical about the charge, pointing out that Maine had already “gotten off oil” for electricity generation purposes, and that, despite popular opinion, wind energy was in fact low benefit and high impact.
The task force was dominated by people with strong ties to the wind industry. Their “solution” to the oil crisis/wind opposition “problem” was to provide a special zoning and permitting process for wind energy projects: Maine’s Wind Law. It passed without debate by unanimous votes in the House and Senate. With the stroke of Baldacci’s pen in 2008, the red carpet was rolled out for a level of rural industrial development that was unprecedented in the Maine history.
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. 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.
This is why there is a Citizens Initiative! The official title of the Citizens Initiative (CI) is:
This is not a wholesale repeal of the Wind Energy Act. The CI will simply level the playing field and restore citizens’ rights. If approved by Maine voters, the law as amended by the CI will:
- Eliminate the special expedited permitting process that is destroying many of Maine’s most valuable natural areas
- Leave in place a Wind Law that is fair, that will not prevent wind development and that will allow wind project permitting decisions to be based on science and empirical evidence.
- Restore to citizens who live in 2/3 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;
- proving that the electricity generated by Maine wind facilities will be for the benefit of Maine citizens;
- proving that turbine noise emissions meet American National Standards Institute criteria;
- that includes a bond to cover 100% of the cost of decommissioning the turbines and restoring the landscape when the project is no longer viable.
- Challenge assumptions in the Wind Law that as a result of wind development:
- fossil fuel energy facilities will be closed;
- we will achieve energy independence by reducing our use of foreign oil;
- our CO2 emissions will decline and climate change will be controlled;
- wind energy will have only positive benefits for our health and environment.
What We Need To Do
A CI relies on citizen support for passage. If we get enough signatures the petition will go to the Legislature for consideration. The Legislature may choose to enact it or send it to the voters as a ballot measure. The first step was getting Secretary of State approval of the petition language. That step is complete and Maine citizens can now sign the petition that is being circulated. Click here to see the petition.
We need to gather over 50,000 signatures. That’s where I hope you will help. Please help us by pledging to collect a certain number of signatures. How many do you think you can get? 5? 50? 500? Can you ask other concerned citizens to collect signatures too?
You may have noticed that as more and more of these projects are built, the public’s attitude has shifted against the wind developers. We are finding citizens eager to sign petitions. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to collect signatures.
A person collecting signatures is known as a Circulator. Both Circulators and signers must be Maine residents registered to vote in Maine. The rest is as easy as signing your name. If you’re ready to help I can provide you with everything you need to know.
Our deadline to collect all the necessary signatures is early September of 2015. Even though that’s months away, we need to move quickly to accomplish our goal. So, contact me today if you want to be part of this initiative.
As always, thank you for pitching in to protect Maine’s environment and economy.
Dan Remain, Cushing, ME, (207) 354-0714,Email N7CD@gwi.net