Finally, some justice for Maine wind opponents

CLICK for video   : A decision welcomed by Maine's wind turbine opponents, and a couple lessons learned.

CLICK for video: A decision welcomed by Maine's wind turbine opponents, and a couple lessons learned.

Ever since Maine legislators rammed through the expedited wind law in 2008, it’s been a tough haul for those of us who know that the poor economics of building wind turbines on Maine’s beautiful ridge lines make the mountain’s destruction even more regrettable. It’s seemed like the system is stacked against us, which it is.

Well, chalk one up for us, and especially for Dave Corrigan, Gary Campbell and the Partnership for the Preservation of Downeast Lakes Watershed (PPDLW). The Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruled recently that the 16- turbine Bowers Mountain wind farm cannot be built because of its unacceptably negative impact on Maine’s scenic resources. Here are the details, as reported by the Bangor Daily News.

This affirms that visual impact is indeed an important criterion for deciding whether or not wind industrialists should be permitted to mar some of Maine’s most scenic natural resources. There are a couple more lessons to be learned as well, as this video explains. Congratulations to PPDLW for this hard-earned victory!

“There are lies, damned lies and statistics” (Mark Twain)

The wind industry's limitless financial resources (bloated by taxpayer & ratepayer subsidies) and their relentless influence-buying was on display Tuesday in Bangor. Their surrogates held yet another dog and pony show for the press to tout the "necessity" of erecting more wind turbines, and clearing thousands of acres of Maine forest to build the costly transmission lines to get this electricity down to southern New England. Among the bogus claims: wind power in Maine is "helping to reduce the climate crisis."

Friends of Maine's Fountains thanks the Bangor Daily News and other media outlets for being in touch and giving us the opportunity to bring some sobriety to the discussion. The fact is, wind energy cannot move the needle on climate change or CO2 reduction, and these wind supporters should stop claiming that it can. For those who are unfamiliar with this issue, reading "Here are 20 Facts Every Mainer Should Know" is an excellent way to get up to speed. Here's the full text of the Bangor Daily News article:

Wind power ‘critical’ to combating climate change, advocacy group says

By Christopher Burns, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — Proponents of wind power in Maine unveiled a reportTuesday at Bangor City Hall touting the growth of wind power over the last decade and its potential to further reduce the harm of climate change.

“Our message today is clear: Wind power here in Maine is already growing steadily, reducing pollution and helping to reduce the climate crisis,” said Laura Dorle, a campaign organizer for Environment Maine, a Portland-based environmental advocacy group. “But we need policies to provide steady support for this clean energy resource to maintain our momentum in the fight against global warming.”

The report, “Turning to the Wind,” was unveiled as states look to implement and comply with the federal Clean Power Plan, which mandates a 32 percent reduction in carbon emissions from power plants by 2030. It also comes as world leaders have gathered in Paris to hash out a global strategy to reduce carbon emissions.

Wind power, the report argues, will be critical to reducing human-made carbon pollution that scientists say fuels global climate change, leading to more extreme weather, a rise in the ocean level and rising temperatures.

Since the first wind farm went online in Mars Hill, wind power’s contribution to Maine’s energy production has grown from 1 percent in 2007 to 8 percent last year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. That’s enough energy to offset the carbon emissions from nearly 114,000 cars and to power 100,000 homes, Dorle said.

As a coastal state, Maine has an opportunity to develop offshore wind power to meet the mandates of the Clean Power Plan to reduce emissions.

According to Habib Dagher, director of the University of Maine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center, which is developing offshore wind technology, within 50 miles of Maine’s coast there is a potential capacity for 156 gigawatts in wind capacity, which could significantly reduce carbon emissions.

Dorle said that to ensure that wind power capacity continues to grow in Maine, consistent government policies are “critically important.”

Congress, in December 2014, let expire a production tax credit for renewable energy used for the development of wind power. This credit has been critical to the growth of wind power over the last two decades, Dorle said, and any measure to reinstate the renewable energy tax credit must be approved by Congress before its adjournment on Dec. 18.

The production tax credit, if renewed, would lead to future wind development that would reduce carbon emissions equivalent to an additional 30,000 cars and provide enough energy to power another 50,000 homes, according to Dorle.

But Chris O’Neil, director of public affairs for Friends of Maine’s Mountains, a group that opposes wind turbine development in Maine, questioned whether the industry still needs “training wheels” such as the production tax credit.

“If the wind industry once did need the subsidy to get off the ground, that need is gone because America now has a mature industry,” O’Neil said in an emailed statement Tuesday afternoon.

O’Neil also said that reductions in carbon emissions in the U.S. have been largely the result of phasing out the use of oil and coal for natural gas. Any reductions in carbon emissions from wind power to generate electricity wouldn’t come close to offsetting the emissions from cars and trucks on Maine roads, he said.

Laurie Osher, president of Maine Interfaith Power and Light, a nonprofit group that promotes renewable energy, said Tuesday it is a “moral imperative to address the issue of a changing climate.”

“Each person, each congregation, each community needs to figure out how they can reduce their concentration of carbon that they put in the atmosphere. Each person and each community needs to assess how they can reduce their impact on the planet,” she said.

Climate change, however, has not just environmental consequences, but also consequences for public health, according to Dr. Bill Wood of Bangor.

Wood said warmer temperatures caused by climate change have fueled an increase in Lyme disease, which rose from 247 cases in 2005 to 1,169 cases last year, Wood said citing data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“As the weather warms up going north,” Wood said, “these insect-borne diseases can spread north.”

Congress thinks taxpayers have money to burn

On November 11, the chairman of Friend’s of Maine’s Mountains had an important opinion piece published in the Portland Press Herald and other MaineToday newspapers. In his column, Rand Stowell discussed subsidies to the wind industry, and provided a damning quote from Paul Gaynor, CEO of what used to be known as First Wind, and a damning quote from Ahmad Chatila, the current CEO of SunEdison.

Both men have been pretty explicit that the “wind production tax credit” is unnecessary.

Of course, if state legislatures and the United States Congress continue to insist that taxpayers keep doling out out subsidies that are unnecessary, Chatilla and Gaynor will be happy to pocket the extra cash that the largesse of your senators and representatives produces. To read Stowell’s entire column, go to “It’s time for Congress to end the wind production tax credit (again).”

2 Things You Can Do to Stop the Wind Welfare

2 Things You Can Do to Stop the Wind Welfare

(Which could also stop the senseless assault on Maine’s environment & economy.)

It’ll take you five minutes!  Here’s what to do: 

1.  Cut and paste the below narrative, and send it to Maine’s four elected officials in Washington (their contact info is here).

2.  Then call each one and ask if they know that Maine’s leading wind developer is on record as saying “We don’t need the dough, but it’s so nice of you to throw it at us every year!”

                                                                                -------------

Congress will soon be voting on the Wind Production Tax Credit (PTC).  This subsidy has died many times since it was enacted in 1992 to spur a new industry. Now that the industry is mature, it is time to stop the PTC. 
We don’t need the money, but as long as you’re spending it, we’re taking it!
Maine’s dominant wind developer is on record as saying that the PTC is pennies from heaven: 
Maine’s wind energy buildup in the last decade has been mostly by one developer:  First Wind (now SunEdison).  In 2012 First Wind CEO Paul Gaynor discussed the PTC in a Recharge News article:
First Wind Chief Executive Says Life Without PTC is Possible
"I know the industry has needed it. I think the question for all of us is, ‘Do we need it any more or forever?’ I believe the answer is no."
Just a few weeks ago, SunEdison (now in financial difficulty) CEO Ahmad Chatila discussed the PTC in an October 2015 Bloomberg article:
US Tax Breaks That Clean Power Doesn’t Seem to Mind Losing
“If the PTC expires we will be fine, we can get by.” 
 

Isn't it time that CONGRESS stop funding the PTC?

 

 

We Need You In The Game

Friends:

FMM got many pats on the back recently when we salvaged quite a bit out of a lost cause, winning significant concessions from Maine's largest wind developer.  (In case you missed that, CLICK HERE.)  As usual there are armchair quarterbacks, and the news didn't please everyone.  

But that battle is over and FMM carries on in earnest.  With at least three new wind projects to oppose, and with so much public educating to do...

…we don't need armchair quarterbacks -- we need you!

A Maine Sunday Telegram article this week quoted someone who claimed to be "sold out" by FMM's action. A reader of that article might be led to wonder if the wind resistance forces in Maine have been weakened.  

No way.  That person who felt disappointed was unfamiliar with the case, and expressed understandable frustration that another Maine wind project had survived the opposition.   

We were disappointed too.  Which is why FMM held out for so much from the wind developer:

  •  $2.5 million in grants to some of the most urgent and worthy Maine conservation projects
  •  A quarter million dollars for wind turbine bat mortality research
  •  A 50% increase in decommissioning funds for the project, plus regular guaranteed increases
  •  A contractual "Wind Exclusion Zone" covering some of the state's finest natural resources
  •  A 300 X 30 mile "No Wind Zone" that more than doubles Appalachian Trail scenic setbacks
  •  A much broader audience of Mainers who are now looking at wind more skeptically 

Would FMM rather that we could stop the project?  Of course.  But reckless spending of your precious dollars is irresponsible non-profit stewardship. Having opposed that wind project vigorously for two years, both before and after the permits were granted, having seen our appeal go up in smoke when all seven of our objections were refuted, and preparing to spend another $50,000 or more to litigate further, FMM's Board made a responsible business decision: It agreed to cease a hopeless law suit in exchange for a lot of value to Maine.

So FMM perseveres.  But with all the value that FMM won for Maine, it all went to the public good, and to other fine conservation organizations.  FMM still needs your financial support!  You can rest assured that every penny of your FMM donation is dedicated to the mission.

Looking forward, the public and policymakers need to be educated about the high impacts and low benefit from wind energy. The state's rubber stamp permitting process needs to be strengthened. Municipalities and opposition groups need our assistance protecting their communities and homes. FMM continues to watch important cases before Public Utilities Commissions in Maine and New England.  Both Maine's environment and economy are in peril because of wind energy development, and FMM is out there on the field every day, in the game, working on this mission, preventing that peril.

FMM can't win the game if you're on the sideline.  Please click the donate button on this page and make your contribution now. 

Thank you for your continued support.

Rand Stowell

Founder & Chairman 

Beware! Mainers Went to Denmark to Learn

Mainers recently went to Denmark to learn how to get off oil.  

http://climatetours.org/why-denmark/  

You might have seen the news about the Grow Smart Maine trip in search of climate solutions. They will talk about it at their October 20 Annual Meeting in Biddeford. 

https://growsmartmaine.org/events/annualmeeting2015/?utm_source=mainebiz&utm_medium=banner

They said their inquiries would focus on fossil fuel reduction and energy, but the itinerary and the "What We've Learned" article they published upon return show that the curriculum was almost exclusively about electricity. 

http://climatetours.org/what-we-learned/

Electricity is a shambles in Denmark, so hopefully our Maine pilgrims (including some legislators) were taking notes on what NOT to do, such as: 

1.  See the Danish equivalent of ISO Express (real time dashboard). As of 60 seconds ago electricity consumption was almost 50% imports from Norway, Sweden and Germany.  

http://www.energinet.dk/EN/El/Sider/Elsystemet-lige-nu.aspx

2.  Imports are critical to Denmark’s attempted use of renewables. It's feast or famine with wind energy, which results in Net Imports.  

http://energinet.dk/EN/KLIMA-OG-MILJOE/Miljoerapportering/Sider/Import-og-eksport.aspx

 3.  Denmark now has the highest electricity rates in all of the EU. 

 http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/Energy_price_statistics

See Energinet’s (the national grid operator) 2014 Annual Report. 

http://www.energinet.dk/SiteCollectionDocuments/Engelske%20dokumenter/Om%20os/annual-report-2014.pdf

One only need to peruse the first 25-30 pages to get a feel for all of their problems. Denmark’s present power market is in a state of dysfunction and instability. Power disruptions are commonplace. If they can’t import enough power during high peak periods they don’t have enough domestic conventional capacity to keep the lights on. Demand Response//curtailment is their only remaining option. They claim that wind provides 40% of the country’s power yet 29% of total generation is exported while 37.5% of total consumption is imported (document page 15). 

Entering this century Denmark claimed their objective was to become energy independent and self-sufficient. They are now pushing as hard as they can for far more cooperation in power markets amongst the EU. They need buyers for their wind power when they can’t use it, and they need imported power sources when they can’t produce enough of their own power. Norway routinely cuts them off when their hydro pumped storage falls below thresholds the Norwegians consider safe to sustain their own grid. 

Energinet no longer reports their actual performance with meeting their Kyoto CO2 quota for power generation. The last time they reported was for 2012, when they missed their target then by 17.6%. The only way Denmark meets hypothetical compliance now is by generating excess emissions credits from increased capacity in renewables which is primarily off-shore wind. 

Denmark has always claimed that they were on the leading edge of going green since the early 1990’s. Based on their experience going green means skyrocketing prices, grid instability and unreliability and curtailment of consumption in order to keep from increasing their emissions.  

There is a positive note about the Grow Smart trip.  Maine CO2 emissions from Transportation are more than QUADRUPLE our CO2 emissions from Electricity.  The folks from Maine report that they did some bicycle riding while in Denmark.  Now THERE's a "solution" for Maine! 

####

 


 

Get Ready. Process Starts for Maine's Biggest Wind Project Yet

The largest wind complex in New England has been proposed for Aroostook County.

119 towers standing 492 feet tall would be visible from the Crown of Maine to Katahdin.

It is called the Number Nine Wind Project, and it would be the first development in Maine for a Texas company whose shenanigans FMM exposed 13 months ago in this article.  

Their application is complete, and the agency that will either approve or deny the permit will host a public meeting where you can enter your objections into the record.

The Public Meeting will be at Central Aroostook High School in Mars Hill at 6:00 PM on Thursday, October 22.  

A public meeting is your chance to speak against the project.  Comments must be specific to the proposal ("I don't like subsidies" is not an accepted objection) and they will be considered by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) in its review of the application.  You can speak at the meeting or submit written comments by email to this address:

Number9WindProject.DEP@maine.gov  

 

Here is a link to the DEP's project file, where you can view the entire application:  

http://www.maine.gov/dep/ftp/WindPowerProjectFiles/NumberNine/

 

Public comment will be accepted through early March, 2016, which is the deadline for DEP to render its decision.  Here is a guide to how the process will work:  

http://www.maine.gov/dep/publications/documents/is-public.pdf  

 

Please get involved, speak up and stay tuned as this process unfolds.

 

You Can Opt-Out of the Expedited Wind Area

One shot.  That's all we have.  

To get your petition: CLICK HERE

FMM sending a flyer to all 6000 voters in the UT.  Watch for it.  Two clicks here for the front and back of the flyer

In 2015 the Legislature created an easy way for residents in the Unorganized Territory (UT) to remove themselves from the so-called "Expedited Area" where wind development is essentially a rubber stamp transaction. If you live in the UT, you only have six months to sign up for this chance to protect your property. After June of 2016, you will lose the opportunity. 

Removing your township or plantation is not guaranteed to kill every wind project that developers want to build, but it raises the bar a lot.  If wind developers come seeking to industrialize your newly Unexpedited Area, they will have to go through a more difficult permitting process where they are less likely to get a permit. 

If you live in the the majority of Maine's land mass that we call the UT you are only 1% of Maine's population.  And your rights got trampled when the EA was (link) arbitrarily created behind closed doors. Since then you've watched the dozens of cities and towns in Maine write wind ordinances to protect themselves, while you've also watched helplessly as the UT gets overrun by massive industrial wind complexes that don't belong in the quiet woods, or on scenic mountains.

If you want to make this change in your township or plantation, there's now a simple way to sign up and it doesn't cost money. In some places it will require only two signatures!  But you should do it right away.  FMM can help you with this very easy opt-out, but you have to act now because on July 1st you'll lose your shot.

To get your petition: CLICK HERE  

When you decide to opt out-of the Expedited Area, please let us know:   mainemountainfriends@gmail.com 

 

Big News

FMM Announces Major Conservation Funding

In losing legal battle over wind project, FMM achieves significant natural resource wins

From Rand Stowell, FMM's Founder & Chairman

Dear Friends:

You may recall that FMM led the legal opposition against the Bingham Wind Project, which was proposed a few years ago by First Wind (now SunEdison).  We formally raised numerous objections but in 2014 the license was granted under Maine's permissive wind siting standards. When we appealed the decision, the appeals board ultimately rejected all seven issues that our appeal raised.

The project is now under construction, sadly, but I have some good news to impart: all was not lost.

After months of negotiation, FMM and SunEdison have found common ground on preserving significant Maine natural resources. 

Thanks to the incredible efforts of Chris O'Neil, FMM's VP of Public Affairs,  SunEdison will dedicate $2.75 million to several organizations with the funds used exclusively for critical conservation projects. These include mountain trail creation and maintenance, land acquisition, and the protection of wildlife.

A conservation fund was created as one part of an extensive agreement between SunEdison and FMM following the approval of the Bingham Wind Project.  After the project was granted its license by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), FMM agreed to cease the litigation in exchange for the provisions that SunEdison has agreed to.

We were obviously disappointed to lose our fight against the biggest wind project in Maine, but we are happy that we could ensure considerable good is coming from it.

Under the terms of the agreement, FMM spent months interviewing Maine conservation organizations to identify and determine what projects were most critically in need of funding.  Given recent Maine history in conservation funding, FMM found no shortage of worthy projects.

Here is an excerpt from our press release: 

“I thought spending 2.5 million dollars of someone else’s money would be easy,” said Chris O’Neil, the independent public affairs and policy consultant who negotiated both the FMM-SunEdison agreement and the various conservation deals.  “But my client quickly learned it could have funded 25 million dollars worth of desirable projects, had the money been available. That said, we are pleased to recoup so much good from such a big loss.” 

Beneficiaries for the first $1.5 million include the Trust for Public Lands, the Appalachian Mountain Club, the Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust, the Forest Society of Maine the Atlantic Salmon Federation, and Mahoosuc Land Trust.  The conservation projects are located across Maine, from the western mountains through the Moosehead and Hundred Mile Wilderness regions to Katahdin. FMM is not a beneficiary of the fund.  (See a list of the organizations, contacts and the funded projects by clicking here.)

The deal contains more than conservation funding:

-  SunEdison will not build future wind projects in agreed-upon sections of Maine. See map by clicking here.  For a smaller JPG file click here.  A key part of this “Exclusion Zone” is a 15 mile buffer from both Baxter State Park, and from either side of Maine’s 281 mile Appalachian Trail.  While this no-build zone applies only to Maine's largest wind company, SunEdison, FMM thinks it sends a strong message to other wind developers: back off. 

-  $250,000 will be dedicated to research wind turbine bat deterrent technology.  The grant will go to Bat Conservation International, which is conducting research on the brown bat species, which has been threatened in the northeast by white-nose syndrome. 

-  SunEdison has increased by 50% the decommissioning fund that it had to set aside for the Bingham Wind Project. Moreover, in years 5, 10, and 15 the fund must be re-evaluated and will be increased by at least 1.5% in each of those years.  During the permitting process in 2014, FMM had objected to what we determined was an inadequate decommissioning fund being imposed by DEP under the terms of the permit.

Again, FMM was not pleased to see the Bingham Wind Project proceed, but we hope that the provisions of this agreement will soften the blow for Maine.  It has been an arduous process but we finally have it finished, so now we can devote our full attention to our mission.  

On behalf of FMM Directors Brad Blake, Bob Hale, Gary Steinberg, Tom Hinman, and myself, I publicly thank Chris O'Neil for putting all this together, and I thank you for your continued support of FMM!

Yours truly,

Rand

For a complete list of the conservation projects click here.

For the full press release click here.

Friends of Maine’s Mountains contact: 

Chris O’Neil

(207) 590-3842

cponeil22@gmail.com

 

Below are statements from the beneficiary conservation organizations: 

“These funds come at a critical time when important conservation work is underway. They will help advance efforts not only to conserve key forestland and habitat, but also improve access and the opportunities for everyone to experience remarkable Maine landscapes,” said Wolfe Tone, The Trust for Public Lands Maine state director. “We thank the partners involved for the dedication and commitment to create a positive result.” (Click here for TPL project descriptions.)
Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust is pleased that these funds have been made available for our work in protecting lands along the Appalachian Trail in Maine,” said Simon Rucker, executive director of the Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust.  “For the A.T. community in Maine, the agreement that SunEdison will not build or expand wind projects in sections of the State of Maine, including a 15 mile exclusion zone on either side of nearly all of the Appalachian Trail and Baxter State Park, is excellent news.” (Click here for MATLT project descriptions.)
 The Appalachian Mountain Club is pleased that its projects to directly benefit Maine’s natural resources and the recreating public in the 100-Mile Wilderness region were selected for funding,” said Walter Graff, senior vice president of the AMC.  “The funds will allow AMC to make tangible on-the-ground improvements by restoring trout habitat, and providing the public with improved recreational access through building new trails and connecting regional conservation lands.” (Click here for AMC project descriptions.)
“These funds will support a project that will conserve thousands of acres of high elevation lands around Whitecap Mountain, that are adjacent to 11 miles of the Appalachian Trail, and that include high-elevation, cold-water streams that are essential for brook trout and Atlantic salmon habitat in the West Branch of the Pleasant River.  This will be a wonderful gift to future generations!” said Alan Hutchinson, Forest Society of Maine executive director. (Click here for FSM project descriptions.)
“This funding will help the Atlantic Salmon Federation open up nine miles of cold water tributary streams in the Piscataquis River for the benefit of salmon and brook trout,” said Andrew Goode, Atlantic Salmon Federation’s vice president. “Restoration of the larger Penobscot River has been the top priority of the Atlantic Salmon Federation for the past 15 years and this is an exciting next step in our restoration efforts. Thank you to SunEdison and Friends of Maine’s Mountains.”  (Click here for ASF project description.)
The Mahoosuc Land Trust is very pleased to receive funding from SunEdison and the Friends of Maine’s Mountains. The grant will help connect two critical habitats, the Ellis River Valley and Rumford Whitecap Mountain,” said Jim Mitchell, Mahoosuc Land Trust’s executive director. “This connection is especially important for wildlife in a time of changing climate.  The project protects more than two miles of frontage on the Ellis River and provides outdoor recreation opportunities to residents and visitors in Western Maine.” (Click here for MLT project description.)
####

 

Wind fables seduce, but Maine facts reveal HUGE WASTE

Why our well-intended policies are causing more harm than good

By Chris O'Neil, Special to the BDN

Last Tuesday, Sept. 8, the New England electricity grid system operator (ISO-NE) had a terrible day. What played out Tuesday (and dozens of other days, especially in summer and winter) is a glaring example of our feel-good energy policies leading to catastrophic results.

Temperatures were in the high 80s all over New England Tuesday. The ISO-NE projected a peak load (demand) of 24,000 megawatts per hour (MWH) for the day. We sprinted past that number at noon. While spot prices started the day under $30 per MWH they topped $1,000 before we finished lunch (that’s the difference between 3 cents per KWH and $1 per KWH)! Immediately ISO-NE went to Alert 2 status for the remainder of the day. This is when factories are asked by the grid to close up shop and send workers home. It is also when idle coal and oil plants fire up. The fiasco lasted until past 7 p.m.

New England has about 750 MW of wind capacity. We have about 850 MW of solar capacity, almost all of which is on rooftops where owners are able to sell their excess power to the grid. That combined 1,600 MW, an “investment” of at least $4 billion, wasn’t able to contribute even half of 1 percent of load Tuesday. It never exceeded 50 MWH all day, and at 5 p.m. when the sun was still intense and load was at daily peak, solar was contributing zero. (When the temperature gets hot, solar owners turn up their air conditioning so there is no power left for them to send to the grid.)

The billions New England wasted in the last decade on unsustainable feel-good generation assets were the same billions that should have been invested in critical, dependable, clean energy infrastructure. Specifically, our natural gastransmission constraints and our lack of access to large-scale Canadian hydronow stand as tragic examples of our grossly negligent misappropriation of resources.

The result of our negligence? While a few years ago we had almost entirely gotten off oil and coal, in the last three years we have quadrupled our burning of dirty oil for electricity generation. Why? Because when the power is needed on hot or cold days, all the region’s natural gas is being used by homes and businesses. Just 200 miles north of the world’s richest gas fields and lowest gas prices, we cannot get enough gas to run the dozens of new clean electric plants we bought to replace the coal and oil plants.

But shouldn’t Maine do its part to save the planet? Remember, only two statesin the nation have electric sectors that emit less CO2 than Maine. Maine has thehighest renewable portfolio standard in America, and in 2012 more than 99 percent of Maine generation was from clean sources other than oil and coal. But our unsustainable energy policy is now increasing rates, taxes and pollution. Amazingly, transportation accounts for almost five times more CO2 in Maine than electricity does. Yet, our Legislature raised the Interstate 95 speed limits while passing incentives for wind developers.

This is why Maine is increasingly getting dirty emissions from southern New England’s old plants. The absurdly high peak electric rates are unnecessarily bleeding hundreds of millions of dollars from Maine’s economy, and billions from New England’s economy. Scarce tax dollars funnel to wealthy wind developers, and vast expanses of Maine are slated to be industrialized with 50-story turbines.

But looking at those majestic white turbines on Maine mountains makes people in Massachusetts and Connecticut feel good.

Wind energy, as evident in Tuesday’s two-tenths of 1 percent contribution to load, cannot replace or even materially displace conventional grid generation.

Feel-good energy policy looks like this, and it is a major reason we are foolhardy to destroy our mountains with useless, unnecessary, unaffordable, unsustainable wind plants. If wind energy’s positive benefits could actually exceed its negative impacts, then maybe a few mountains could justifiably be destroyed. But we know otherwise.

The Friends of Maine’s Mountains mission is to educate the public about how destructive this feel-good policy is. Maine’s economy and environment are too important to squander.

Chris O’Neil is vice president of Public Affairs at Friends of Maine’s Mountains.

CAN'T STOP US: Friends and Allies continue Maine’s fight

Friends of Maine’s Mountains, as well as its many Allies throughout this gorgeous state, continue to fight the irrational, knee-jerk impulse to believe that “wind energy” is not an elaborate chase for subsidy (cold hard cash.) It absolutely is, and you can find out why HERE.

When you take a strong position, you take shots. And yet we ARE making progress, despite taking pot shots from all sides. (Thanks, Suze Orman, this column was very helpful!) You want proof that FMM and its allies are resilient and will continue to persevere? Check out THIS story from MPBN’s A.J. Higgins. We continue the fight, no matter the odds:

A.J. Higgins reports on a bill that would make major changes to Maine's wind power policies.

AUGUSTA, Maine - The future of wind energy in Maine is up in the air, as lawmakers consider a comprehensive bill that would ease the state's original goals for wind energy generation. Republican Rep. Beth O'Connor says her bill provides the kind of changes that are long overdue for opponents of wind turbine farms who feel their concerns are ignored. But supporters of wind power say O'Connor's bill threatens clean energy initiatives and Maine jobs.

CLICK HERE for full story by A.J. Higgins and Maine Public Radio.

CLIMBING EVEREST: 62,000 signatures and several million dollars

Our network should know about an important meeting on May 2. As you recall, FMM’s longtime supporter Dan Remian has been working on a statewide referendum campaign that seeks changes to the Wind Law. Saving Maine has teamed up with Dan to host an informational meeting in Freeport that you might want to attend. There’s no information about the meeting on the Saving Maine web site, and they appear not to have a Facebook page or Twitter account, but if you drop us a line at MaineMountainFriends@gmail.com, we’ll be happy to forward you the invitation.

Friends of Maine’s Mountains’nonprofit tax status prohibits us from engaging in political activity, but we plan to be there. For the better part of a year now, with Dan leading the valliant charge, a major Saving Maine priority has been gathering signatures on an initiative to amend the 2008 Wind Act. They need 62,000 signatures to get this initiative on the 2016 ballot, so it’ll be very exciting to hear how much progress their effort has made. Given that the deadline is just a few months away, by this point they’re more than likely just a few thousand short.

Of course getting the signatures is the easy part. There will be major political challenges in convincing voters that the Legislature can make the referendum work if passed. And as anyone who has ever worked on a referendum campaign knows (bear-baiting, casinos, etc.), it’s all about the TV buy. To win, you must be equipped to do battle on TV. You’ve got to have a great message, and you have to buy enough gross rating points to compete with the several million dollars that the industrial wind developers will hurl at the defeat of this measure. So, more than the report on signatures, the fundraising report on May 2 will be very indicative of the real chances for success. Again, we can’t engage in political activity, but here’s what FMM has done to pitch in:

  • In 2014, we helped publicize the launch of Saving Maine. (HERE”S THE LINK.)
  • Also in 2014, we held our Annual Wind Forum in Freeport, at which the Saving Maine petition was discussed in detail. (YOUTUBE EXCERPT HERE.)
  • We offered an ongoing publishing opportunity to any wind opponent. (HERE’S THE LINK.)
  • We published a guest column, “Change the wind law.” (HERE’S THE LINK.)
  • We created the online links to the petition that Saving Maine is using liberally on its web page. (HERE’S THE LINK.)

Saving Maine’s ambition is exciting. We wish them the very best, and we’re looking forward to the May 2 progress reports. While they champion a winning referendum campaign, FMM will complement their effort by continuing our education mission at the Maine Legislature, at the regulatory agencies, with the media, and online with continued publishing about why industrial wind is such a bad idea.

FMM's Chris O'Neil reports from Augusta

As many of you know, Friends of Maine's Mountains tries its best to maintain a presence in Augusta. That's where the action is, at the Maine Legislature and at the regulatory hearings. We are are out-manned, out-gunned and certainly out-spent, but nevertheless determined to be "in the arena" in defense of Maine's mountains. Our representative is Chris O'Neil, and today we are pleased to present Chris' report from the Statehouse.

THIS WEEK'S NEWS FROM AUGUSTA

The FMM legislation is still being drafted

FMM's bill is in the hands of the Legislature's staff.  Expect to see it printed soon. Rep. Beth O'Connor is the sponsor for the bill that aims to correct the most noteworthy flaws in Maine's Wind Energy Act, while maximizing benefit from Maine's pursuit of renewable energy.

The so-called "100 Megawatt" legislation

Last week was the hearing for LD 132,  An Act to Remove the 100 Megawatt Cap on Hydropower Under the Renewable Resources Laws.  The bill's sponsor has offered an amendment that would treat all renewables equally regarding government mandates, allowing them to compete in the marketplace.  As FMM often points out to legislators, not all energy sources are equal.  Among renewables there are high quality and low quality resources, so we ought not force ratepayers to purchase low quality.

If passage of LD 132 helps to hasten procurement of Canadian hydropower by our partner states in the ISO-New England, it will be good for ratepayers, good for the environment, and good for Maine's mountains.

With over 5000 megawatts of firm generating capacity nearing retirement in New England (most of it dirty old coal and oil plants), our grid needs to find significant quantities of dispatchable, affordable power.  No amount of low quality wind energy can replace (or even displace) this base load and peak load generation. High quality hydropower from Newfoundland, Labrador, and Quebec can not only sustain our grid needs, it can also fulfill the various states' renewable mandates.

For senseless political reasons, this legislation has been defeated in the past. New England is approaching crisis because of natural gas pipeline deficiencies. Our continued negligence of such critical infrastructure cannot continue.  Likewise, to block this hydropower enhancement is to harm Maine's clean air and Maine's economy.

See FMM's testimony on the bill by clicking HERE.

Citizens' Rights Legislation

LD 791 is a Wind Lobby bill that incredibly seeks to expand the abilities of wind developers to run roughshod over rural Maine and its residents. This bill will be heard the Agriculture Committee on April 14. The Agriculture Committee oversees the Land Use Planning Commission, which has jurisdiction over the Unorganized Territory.

LD 828 is a citizen-written bill that seeks to restore the abilities of rural Mainers who need to have some control over wind development in their communities, like other Mainers have. Could be an interesting juxtaposition with LD 791, given the decreasing popularity of wind energy. The two bills will get back-to-back public hearings on April 14.  To learn more about this important legislation CLICK HERE.

Scenic Impact Legislation

LD 911 is important legislation that seeks to restore some reasonable scenic impact protections to the wind project siting requirements. With turbine heights now routinely topping 500 feet, with the increasing number of turbines per project, and with the cumulative number of projects coming to Maine, it is past time to protect Maine's Quality of Place. The public hearing might be in late April and should be announced soon.

Cost of Electricity Legislation

LD 1107 is a curious bill that seeks to do three things:

1.  Mandate a 40% off-peak discount for electricity customers. This would be good for electric thermal storage heat, electric vehicles, etc.  Much of the off-peak time is when New England electricity is cleanest (the dams and nuke plants can satisfy almost all demand).

2.  Mandate T&D (poles and wires) rate discounts (to be determined) for electric customers who purchase power from new renewables (essentially wind). Of course, ratepayers buy electricity from the grid, not directly from any generator. Morever, wind is a driver of T&D rates, so seeking to discount it makes no sense.

3.  Conduct a study of electricity costs.  At the April 15 public hearing in the Utilities Committee, FMM will likely support this provision, with caveats.

Maine, you’re an eyewitness to a train wreck

Business reporter Darren Fishell at the Bangor Daily News wrote earlier today that, “The corporate subsidy watchdog agency Good Jobs First found Central Maine Power Co. parent company Iberdrola topped the list of all recipients of federal grants and tax credits, primarily in tax credits for its renewable energy developments.” Here’s a link to the FULL STORY.

Why does that matter to you, the Maine electricity ratepayer and taxpayer? Iberdrola is a Spanish company. Now that you know, we present you with this “executive summary” of what blowing up the tops of Maine’s scenic mountains to build industrial wind factories is all about.

  • The wind peddlers use federal subsidies, ratepayer subsidies and “expedited” permitting to build the turbines. They reach into YOUR pockets.
  • The turbines directly and negatively impact one of Maine’s most important industries, tourism.
  • The huge turbines operate only 25% of the time, because that’s how often the wind blows at required velocities in Maine.
  • Because these turbines DON’T generate electricity 75% of the time, they do NOTHING to get Maine off fossil fuels. Conventional electricity power plants driven by fossil fuels must stay on line and keep the region’s electricity grid stable when the wind turbines, most of the time, are not producing electricity.
  • Nevertheless, transmission lines must be built from the remote mountain turbines, so companies like Iberdrola charge Maine people for the cost of building these lines.
  • Your electric rates skyrocket.
  • Here’s the kicker. The transmission lines send the electricity to Massachusetts and Connecticut (not to Maine customers), so those states can claim they’re using “renewable energy.” Maine benefits not all.

So there’s your crash course in Wind Power Economics 101. You pay, the U.S. sends money and profits to Spain, and not a single climate problem gets solved.

Press release from Friends of Maine's Mountains

Bingham Wind project: opponents concerned about decommissioning costs

(Portland, Maine) The Maine Board of Environmental Protection (BEP) posted its draft recommendation today on the Bingham Wind Project appeal.

The Board packet materials for the March 5, 2015 meeting (including the staff recommendation / Draft Board Order) are now posted on the Board’s webpage at www.maine.gov/dep/bep under the March 5 Agenda. On March 5 the BEP will hear oral arguments. 

Friends of Maine's Mountains (FMM) has opposed the project for more than two years two years. The Department of Environmental Protection granted the license, and FMM promptly filed the appeal last fall when First Wind's financial future was cloudy.

“We’re not surprised to see the DEP staff defending their original decision,” said Rand Stowell, a member of the FMM board of directors. “Even though it is a rare occurrence, we hope that the BEP will overturn the decision. But if they won't overturn it, at the very least we would like to see some stricter conditions placed on the permit.”

Stowell conceded that it is difficult to win an appeal Maine’s Supreme Judicial Court, but held open the possibility that FMM will appeal if the BEP gives the project a green light.

“We’d like to see much tougher standards on the question of decommissioning wind turbines when they’ve exhausted their useful life. We find that, generally, this issue does not get astute consideration from policy makers,” Stowell said.

Friends of Maine’s Mountains (FMM) is an non-profit educational organization that raises awareness of the destructive toll that industrial wind turbines inflict on Maine’s precious and finite mountain areas. For more information, www.FriendsOfMainesMountains.org.

Destroying Maine's mountains AND raising the speed limit

Some things, when you take the time to fully consider context, don't make any sense at all.

Adam Lee.

Adam Lee.

As an example, Adam Lee generously commits his time, talent, and treasure to many good causes. He has served on the boards of Maine Public Broadcasting, Natural Resources Council of Maine, Maine Audubon and Maine Conservation Voters. These are four vocal supporters of Big Wind (possibly because they are also FINANCIALLY SUPPORTED BY Big Wind). Whether he intended it or not, Mr. Lee’s philanthropy has promoted industrial wind complex development for the intended noble cause of reducing CO2 emissions.

He is also the biggest car salesman in Maine.  

So Mr. Lee is closely tied to Maine's worst CO2 emissions source - Transportation. (According to the EPA, Maine's Transportation sector is responsible for almost 5 TIMES MORE CO2 than the Electricity Generation sector.)  

Did anyone hear a peep from Mr. Lee and all those Big Wind cheerleading organizations two years ago when, without debate or even a single NO vote, the Legislature increased the speed limit on I-95?  

Not that Mr. Lee is pro CO2 … in fact he has long called upon Congress to increase CAFE standards for car manufacturers.  No, this is an ironic tale about lawmakers making ill-informed, misguided, feel-good policy decisions.  Decisions that can have massive negative impacts.

New Legislature: Best Wishes, Hope, and a Request

Since 2007, Maine, for the noble cause of reducing CO2, has been falling all over itself spending more than a Billion dollars on mountain wind energy complexes (and spending a lot more on the transmission buildup).

This costly and unnecessary infrastructure adds essentially nothing to the grid, and it has not shown any reduction in CO2. Yet our profligate spending on ineffective wind energy has transpired while we've concurrently neglected critical energy infrastructure investments in gas pipelines and Canadian hydro. It felt good for a while, but now it is starting to sting.

If GM had kept up with technology like the computer industry has, we ‘d all be driving $25 cars that get 1000 MPG
— Bill Gates

Those two infrastructure deficiencies matter a lot. No, gas and hydro aren’t as cute as wind energy, but they work and we need them. They are clean. Affordable. And our neglect of them is now bleeding Billions from the New England economy via spiraling rates while adding insult to injury: we now are burning more oil and more coal, when only a few years ago we had essentially “gotten off of” oil and coal. This has clearly proven to be a grossly negligent and harmful misallocation of resources. 

What not to do if we’re concerned about CO2

In the most recent year of EPA data (2012) Electricity Generation accounted for only 10.8% of Maine's CO2 emissions.  But Transportation CO2 was responsible for a whopping 50.1% of Maine CO2 output. See the spreadsheet analysis of data downloaded from the EPA's website. 

Click here to see how much more gasoline we burn (and how much more CO2 we belch out) when we drive at high speeds.   

So Maine’s Transportation Sector is responsible for almost FIVE TIMES MORE CO2 than our Electricity Sector. Despite this fact, recent Maine Legislatures have rolled out every possible red carpet for expensive, unnecessary, unsustainable wind energy, which doesn’t move the needle. Yet two years ago Maine legislators unanimously passed a bill that raised highway speed limits. They didn’t even debate it!

If the roof on your house is caving in, buy a bird bath?

When in 2012, coal and oil combined were only 4% of New England electricity generation, and less than 1% of Maine generation, today our deficiencies in gas pipeline / Canadian hydro infrastructure result in coal and oil churning out 4 to 6 times more electricity, at great cost, and the dirty air blows to Maine. It's truly a lose-lose. 

On most days this winter the grid operator’s ISO-NE dashboard shows that coal and oil are generating up to 20% of New England’s electricity. Because of our pipeline deficiency, natural gas is regularly being reduced from its usual 50% to as low as 30%. While this is happening, New England's $2 Billion wind "investment" is usually generating only about 1% of New England’s load, oftentimes when there is no demand. 

So why are we going backwards?

Why are we increasing our reliance on the dirty expensive stuff?  It is the result of our grossly negligent misallocation of resources. Spending Billions on wind infrastructure when we should have been planning for +5000 megawatts of coming power plant retirements. Base load and peak load plants that can only be replaced by firm generation (like gas and hydro). It's like a homeowner spending the paycheck on patio furniture when the roof is leaking.    

The electricity sectors of only two states, Vermont and Idaho, emit less CO2 than Maine. Maine has the #1 highest Renewable Portfolio Standard in the nation. We’ve shown the world how to get off oil and coal. So let's stop beating ourselves up about "doing our part," fouling our wild areas with industrial wind complexes that are neither necessary nor useful, while bleeding Billions from our economy.  

While a lot of people felt good (and a few people got rich) when Maine jumped headlong into wind energy, it has turned out to be a terribly misguided policy direction.

What can we do?

Friends of Maine’s Mountains urges the new Legislature to scrutinize feel-good proposals, to think critically over the next two years, and to work for sensible policies that benefit our environment and our economy. 

INEXCUSABLE: Corruption in Maine exposed

How humiliating. Lucky for Jeremy Payne that his  interview was on radio, not TV, so nobody could see him sweating like Richard Nixon in the 1960 presidential debates.. Shall we explain?

On the very same day that Mr. Payne, president of the Maine Renewable Energy Association, appeared on a radio show to brag about a new “study” his group has bought and paid for, an independent media outlet was explaining --- in excruciating detail --- how Payne and his cronies have bought and paid for the Maine Legislature. (OUCH.)

Payne was on Bangor radio station WZON yesterday morning, January 7th, promoting a “study” concocted by a man noted for his ineptness in THIS NEWS ARTICLE. (You can hear the full interview with Payne at THIS LINK.) The study claims to detail how much money the wind industry spends in Maine, right down to the last Burger King hamburger purchased at the Kennebunk exit of the Maine Turnpike. (Yes, the “study” is truly THAT pathetic.) Isn't it remarkable how every time wind lobbyists start to feel the heat, they miraculously produce a rosy study (paid for with tax tax subsidies extracted from YOUR pocket) blathering on about how much money they spend? Unfortunately for them, Maine taxpayers and electricity ratepayers are catching on. 

The press is catching on, too.

At the very hour Payne was spinning PR fairy tales on WZON, the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting was publishing its own study, aptly entitled “A study in how special interests get their way in the Maine Legislature.“ (OUCH.) You can read the FULL ARTICLE HERE. Payne figures prominently in the story, and according to the article, he appears to be a central figure in a corrupt process that funnels money to legislators in exchange for profoundly favorable treatment in the lawmaking process. (As an example, consider this excerpt: “The story of how the wind industry’s problem was taken up by Senate President Alfond, D-Portland, and his staff demonstrates a deep level of coordination between special interests and legislative leaders that often leaves citizens on the sidelines of the democratic process.”) (OUCH AGAIN.)

(We responded to Mr. Payne this morning on WZON Radio: AUDIO LINK HERE.)

In a world in which Payne’s paymasters silence media outlets like MPBN (link) and environmental groups like Maine Audubon (link) with large corporate contributions (Hey, why not? --- greasing palms works in the Maine Legislature), thank goodness for the work of the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting. If you take the time to read the FULL ARTICLE HERE, and visit all the links within the story, we guarantee that you will be revolted by what they have discovered. For instance, there are 178 pages of e-mails and documents at THIS LINK that document incestuous relationships and unbelievably blunt exchanges between wind lobbyists and legislative power brokers. The purpose? To put money in the pockets of wind speculators, at the expense of YOU, the Maine taxpayer and electricity ratepayer!

If you take the time to read this article and all the e-mails, please mention your disgust to your local state rep or state senator the next time you run in to him/her at the grocery store. We will certainly be doing the same.

As light bills skyrocket, Mainers will revolt

Click HERE for 20 Facts Every Mainer Should Know, which we just updated today. It’s information about wind power in Maine, but without the political correctness and “green gobbledygook” from the spin doctors who are trying to pocket your tax dollars and raise your electric rates. The “20 Facts” are important, and this excerpt today from a Bangor Daily News article explains why:

Opponents of wind projects at the local and state levels continued to pose regulatory challenges to new projects through appeals that have risen to the state’s top court, which has clarified parts of the state’s regulatory appeals process.

That’s right, folks. Our effort is making a difference, and we intend to continue our education effort in 2015. And here’s why we must do this, as explained by the very same BDN reporter in the same article:

Electricity prices around the region shot up. Power prices have risen for small-business customers in Maine and residential customers in other New England states, all of which share a power grid. Similar increases are expected to hit Maine’s residential power customers in March.

Drastically higher electric rates, without doing anything to get Maine off oil. That’s what wind turbines do for Maine. We don’t think Mainers will stand for it, especially after they read "20 Facts.” 

FMM Fan Mail

Here at FMM we get lots of praise from supporters who appreciate the good work we do in protecting Maine’s economy and environment.  But we get some unfriendly mail too, as well as some fair inquiry.  Check out the note we recently received, and the exchange that followed it:

“Hello friends of fossil energy.  Say hi to the Koch brothers, or, at least, their bag man.”

FMM:  Dear Mr. _____

Please look a little closer.  Just because FMM opposes grid scale wind energy does not mean that FMM favors “fossil energy.” 

Thank you.  FMM

“What do you favor in regard to energy?”

FMM: 

Hello Mr. ____

Good question. We often discuss "energy" and electricity separately.  For overall energy, that which is the best balance of clean, affordable, and sustainable.  

Specifically for electricity, the same, although electricity generation in Maine is light years ahead of overall energy.  For instance, Maine CO2 emissions from Transportation are about half of all Maine CO2 emissions. That is four times as much CO2 as from Electricity. 

In answer to your question, and as it concerns electricity, we ask why so many people presume that massive change is needed.  Maine's electricity CO2 is third least in America, and the Maine Renewable Portfolio Standard is the highest in the nation. 99% of Maine electricity generation is from clean sources other than coal and oil.  

Wind does nothing to replace or even displace conventional generation.  If we want to help close dirty coal and oil plants elsewhere, it cannot be done with wind, which has the dual fatal flaws: intermittent and unpredictable. Higher-quality tidal energy for instance is intermittent, but it is entirely predictable.  Many higher quality renewables could do the job, and indeed they do.  

In short, Maine wind energy is not sustainable, useful or necessary. It is expensive and it requires expensive transmission infrastructure too. Its impacts far exceed its benefits, so it should be avoided.

Thank you for taking the time to ask.   FMM

Gov. LePage disabled offshore wind by scaring off Statoil.You still aren’t being specific about sources you would find acceptable.”

FMM: 

Hello Mr. _____

You asked:  "You still aren’t being specific about sources you would find acceptable."  

To repeat, we find "acceptable" that which is clean, affordable, sustainable, useful, and necessary.  One might argue that wind is somewhat clean, but it falls short of the other criteria. 

Your question presupposes that we want or need to drastically change that which we have. What we have is excellent. Unfortunately Maine Yankee is gone, but Maine, as noted earlier, adapted well to that loss. Your question and apparent premise is like asking the Patriots' coach who he wants for a quarterback.  He's likely to reply that he's pretty satisfied with Tom Brady.

As for Statoil, FMM was pleased that they abandoned Maine (whether they were "scared off" or not).  Their “research” project was not useful, necessary, sustainable, or affordable.  The above market rates they were awarded by a PUC mandate were five times the market rate -- for a tiny amount of low quality electricity. One of the world's largest oil companies, Statoil pours plenty of its own money into R&D where it thinks it can realize a return. Statoil did not need to get a $200 million gift from the working people of Maine, and their retreat proved that they would not have “invested” their own money in the project, probably because there was obviously no return on investment. 

Thanks again for your interest.

FMM