What Not to Do When You Win Powerball

If every man, woman and child in New England split a $1.2 billion Powerball jackpot, we'd each get $77.  

If every worker in New England got a $1.50 per hour pay raise, the total earnings increase in one month would be equal to that Powerball jackpot: $1.2 billion.  

If the customary wild spikes in electricity costs came under control for just the month of February, New England ratepayers would pocket...you guessed it, Powerball: $1.2 billion.  

Well last month in New England, that's exactly what happened. Ratepayers saved $1.2 billion over what we spent in February 2015. 

See the chart here.

Let's write that out, with all the zeroes.  $1,200,000,000.

Right in our pockets, to spend on cars, food, clothes, tuition... Pretty good for the economy, in all likelihood.

How did this happen, and why is it not front page news?  

It happened for a number of reasons. Here are a few:  Natural gas from the nearby Marcellus region has become so plentiful, it has transformed our energy scene.  Fossil fuel prices are extraordinarily low.  The winter was mild. The New England grid did a good job planning for the customary winter peak crisis. 

The lead story in today's Portland Press Herald was about how Maine's lobster industry might lose $10.6 million per year because of a possible international trade flap.  Nobody wants to see the lobster fishery take a hit, and $10.6 million is real money. It's less than 1% of how much we just pocketed in February because of low electricity costs, yet it isn't news!  

In today's same newspaper, the banner headline was about Maine's forest products industry dilemma, and how biomass electricity generators in are in danger of failing because they cannot compete. This -- along with the cascading bad news about mill closures and other forest industry hardships -- is truly sad news.  

Legislators today are considering whether to subsidize our biomass plants, which in recent years have provided about 25% of Maine electricity generation. The "subsidy" could come in the form of government-mandated power purchasing contracts at above market prices.  A tough call, with all those jobs on the line, and with New England preparing in the next few years to close a quarter of our dispatchable base load and peak load generators.  

Yet in Hartford and Providence and Boston it's still considered cool to claim your utility is "buying" Maine wind energy.  

Even as our reliable biomass generators spiral toward their demise, Maine and the New England states continue to grant above-market government-mandated contracts to non-dispatchable generators (wind) that provide barely any jobs, and that cannot replace or even displace a dirty old fossil fuel plant, even as wind sprawls its massive and expensive infrastructure across Maine's magnificent landscape. We are blowing billions building unnecessary but otherwise fashionable energy infrastructure that does us no good, yet we wring our hands as our existing biomass plants are allowed to wither and die.   

Friends of Maine's Mountains has consistently argued against government-mandated contracts, especially when they are at above-market prices (remember Statoil?).  And most especially when they are for low quality, unnecessary, high-impact generation like wind.  Adding insult to injury, the monetary subsidies are increasingly favoring wind over the higher quality renewables. 

Our energy priorities sometimes amount to fashion statements rather than sound policies.  Today's legislation in Augusta is a band aid approach to a problem of our own making.  The Press Herald article mentions the extraordinarily high costs that policymakers and regulators saddled onto ratepayers a couple decades ago.  In the last decade we've continued to meddle with the same risky favoritism, but we've abandoned biomass in favor of wind, which we are apparently already beginning to regret.  

We do not envy legislators in Augusta who this afternoon are grappling with this dilemma, a dilemma that they helped create, and one that we've seen before.  

Just as quickly as we gained $1.2 billion, we could blow it.  Listen to the Utilities Committee this afternoon:  CLICK HERE.

Big Victory For Maine's Environment and Economy

Planned wind projects in Maine could be cancelled

For Immediate Release

Weld, Maine

An ambitious bill written by the utility and wind power lobby was unanimously killed yesterday in Augusta by a legislative committee. 

LD 1513 would have undone an established law that protects ratepayers from large companies seeking to control the market for electricity generation and transmission. Transmission utilities like Central Maine Power Company and Emera Maine were prohibited from owning generation plants when the Restructuring Act was passed 16 years ago.  

In the last three years utilities and wind generators have brought controversial cases to the Maine Public Utilities Commission and the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, because the companies sought to do enter "affiliated interest" relationships, in which companies held by joint ownership sought to partner on generation projects requiring expensive transmission expenditures for delivery of the power.  Friends of Maine's Mountains (FMM) has opposed all of these attempts because power producing companies have an incentive to build generators in remote areas far from population centers, while utilities that are essentially sister companies have an incentive to build transmission lines hundreds of miles long.  FMM convinced the legislature that this market control is bad for ratepayers, and especially bad for mountains that have been targeted by wind development. 

LD 1513 was written by Central Maine Power, it's parent company Iberdrola, an affiliated company called Iberdrola Renewables, America's second largest wind developer.  Emera Maine assisted.  A consortium of LD 1513 opponents led by FMM included Anthony Buxton of the Independent Energy Consumer Group and Ben Smith of Houlton Water Company.  Opponents provided forceful and compelling testimony both at a February public hearing and a March 8 work session.  See FMM's testimony here.  

Chris O'Neil, FMM's Director of Government Affairs said: "After several language revisions and attempted amendments, the Committee finally said, 'No way.  We don't need or want the sort of market dominance that LD 1513 enables.'  We are pleased that Maine's ratepayers and environment won a big one yesterday."

FMM has welcomed recent reports that wind developers are losing interest in Maine.  O'Neil added that this defeat should send a message to policymakers in southern New England.  "We were astonished a few weeks ago to learn that 51 renewable energy projects are being considered in an RFP process, and that many of those projects would have catastrophic consequences for Maine, all to provide insignificant amounts of expensive electricity to meet arbitrary requirements" in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut.  "Now, with defeat of LD 1513" O'Neil said, "some of those projects are less likely to be completed or even proposed, and we in Maine couldn't be happier if killing this bill also kills those horrible projects under consideration in the RFP." 


Contact Chris O'Neil   (207) 590-3842           mainemountainfriends@gmail.com

When your roof is caving in, don't spend your paycheck on lawn ornaments!

The New England Grid is changing rapidly.  Large workhorse generation stations are retiring in big numbers. That can be good, as lots of those are dirty old coal and oil plants in Southern New England.  

But it's also bad, because when we have to build new generation facilities, our light bills will increase.  

While Maine has the third cleanest electricity generation fleet in the nation, and while New England as a region is also very clean,  in the last few years we have made a push for lots more wind generation.  

This is a problem.  Why?  

Well for starters it ruins some of Maine's most special places.  And wind turbines are hundreds of miles from electricity customers, so all those new transmission lines will really whack our light bills.  And of course, closing base-load nuke and coal plants reduces our ability to reliably keep the lights on.  A thousand new wind turbines in Maine cannot perform the crucial work performed by one nuke plant like the soon-closing 680 megawatt Pilgrim Nuclear Plant in Massachusetts.  Even after we spend billions on new wind turbines, we will still need to invest in new base-load and peak-load generating plants to run the grid.  This would be very costly. 

Continuing to dump billions of dollars into remote wind and its corresponding transmission lines is like a homeowner blowing her paycheck on patio furniture while there is a growing hole in her roof.  If we want more renewables, lets stick to renewable generation that is dispatchable and scalable… you know... the useful stuff:  hydro, biomass, rooftop solar, tidal, etc.

This infographic from the New England Grid operator clearly illustrates the pickle we are in if we keep wasting our money on "patio furniture"



Emergency facing Maine’s energy ratepayers!

Legislators told to “trust” giant overseas corporations

Tomorrow, March 3, 2016, the Legislature’s Committee on Energy & Utilities could be asked to vote for a disaster.  

LD 1513 seeks to undo a very wise Maine law that prohibits cozy business dealings between utilities (like CMP and Emera Maine) and generation companies (like SunEdison and Iberdrola Renewablles). The purpose of the existing law is to prevent generation and distribution companies from conspiring to financially exploit consumers like you.

Do you trust big corporationS to use the honor system?

Do you trust big corporationS to use the honor system?

What does LD 1513 have to do with this? CMP and Iberdrola Renewables are owned by the same parent company. And they are in Augusta right now, telling legislators to trust them: “We won’t even talk about these mutual projects with our colleagues, honest! Oh, and did we mention it’s about jobs?”

If this bill passes, it could result in another Big Wind blitz on rural Maine. Utilities like CMP will be happy to spend billions on unnecessary new transmission lines to accommodate the useless wind projects.  And we'll pick up the tab. CMP says LD 1513 is just meant to clarify the law.  Friends of Maine’s Mountains was recently a party to a lawsuit in which the existing and very necessary legal restraint played a crucial role, and the truth is, the law is very clear: they can’t do it. And for good reasons. 

Let’s STOP this sneaky attempt to skirt a good law protecting Maine citizens. For an in-depth article about how deeply corrupt Maine wind companies are, click here. Then please contact the Legislative Committee HERE and tell them to protect Maine’s electricity ratepayers, and stop destroying Maine’s environment and economy: LEAVE THE LAW IN PLACE! 

Industry spokesman: wind companies losing interest in Maine

Uncertainty injected into southern "New England Clean Energy" RFP decisions

(Weld, Maine) Opponents of building giant wind turbines in Maine’s remote wilderness are deploying effective tactics that have chased wind capital out of the state, according to Jeremy Payne, executive director of the Maine Renewable Energy Association.

Jeremy Payne, spokesperson for Maine's wind industrialists. Photo by Sun Journal, Lewiston, Maine.

Jeremy Payne, spokesperson for Maine's wind industrialists. Photo by Sun Journal, Lewiston, Maine.

In recent weeks, wind opponents have been fanning out across the state, explaining to residents how to gather petition signatures and "opt out" of Maine's Expedited Permitting Area for Wind Energy, also called the Expedited Area (EA). (See "Wind energy to suffer another blow in Maine," September 20, 2015.)

Wind projects proposed in these extremely rural areas are currently not required to win local zoning approval. These areas comprise the majority of the state’s land mass, but are home to just one percent of the population. The EA was shrewdly created in a little-understood maneuver of the Maine Legislature, when it unanimously passed the Wind Energy Act in 2008. Lawmakers wanted to make it quicker and easier to build industrial wind turbines in rural Maine. The net result was that a tiny percentage of Maine people were stripped of land use rights and protections that citizens in the rest of the state enjoy. More than 50 Maine towns in other parts of the state have adopted protective wind energy ordinances since 2008, but residents of the “expedited area” lost the ability to do the same, the moment Governor John Baldacci signed the Wind Energy Act into law.

Recently, however, dozens of opt-out petitions have been turned in to state officials, and Payne conceded this has made the state far less attractive to wind developers.

“At a minimum I think it has caused some companies to push pause on their development plans, and at a maximum I think it has caused some companies to re-deploy their capital outside of Maine,” Payne told the Maine Today papers a few days ago.

Chris O’Neil, a spokesperson for the anti-wind group Friends of Maine’s Mountains, said the exodus of wind investment capital is a major victory for groups like his, who argue that erecting wind turbines is a wasteful investment of taxpayer and ratepayer money that will hurt Maine’s economy. The state is a well-known vacation destination for skiers, boaters, hunters, hikers, fishing enthusiasts and people seeking solitude, away from more urban and industrialized areas.

“This news has electrified wind opponents like nothing else has,” said O’Neil. “If the money to build them is running away, then the turbines will not be built. This gives us a major shot of adrenaline, so the interests Mr. Payne represents can certainly count on increasingly ferocious and costly battles for many years to come.”

Major disadvantage for ME companies in regional RFP process

Growing opposition in Maine, and its confirmed effectiveness at deterring wind development, could have a major impact on a consortium of agencies and electric utilities in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Last fall, the consortium issued a Request for Proposals to deliver at least 5,000 gigawatt hours of clean energy to those states, with proposals due in late January of 2016. The initial results of the RFP made headlines all over New England, when the consortium announced that it had received 51 separate proposals from developers.

On January 29, utilities Emera Maine and Central Maine Power announced that they had submitted a joint transmission proposal in response to the RFP. O’Neil said that particular news defined the next new battleground for wind turbine opponents in Maine. He described wind development in Maine as “the heist,” and costly new transmission systems as “the getaway car.”

“Our strategy is no secret. We want states to our south to know that the regulatory and legal hurdles they face as they try to rob Maine of its famous wilderness areas are enormous, and hopefully insurmountable. They will encounter an especially burdensome process here. In fact, it’s probably in their best interest that they rule out Maine wind right now, and instead pursue viable solutions to the challenges facing the grid and the environment.”



FMM Steps Up vs. Industrial Wind Onslaught

FMM Steps Up vs. Industrial Wind Onslaught

For immediate release

(Weld, ME)  Friends of Maine’s Mountains announced today it is increasing its opposition to industrial wind development in Maine. 

“The New England Clean Energy RFP is the biggest threat to Maine since the Great Fires of 1947” said Chris O’Neil, FMM’s Policy Director. 

The RFP is an electricity solicitation from Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Generation and Transmission developers responded this week with 51 project proposals that will undergo review for the next few months.     

Much of the proposed development would be in Maine.

“Maine and New England already have among the cleanest and most expensive electricity in America,” O’Neil said.  “Now southern New England wants to make it even more expensive while turning Maine into their wind plantation.  It is unacceptable and we need to to stop it.”

O’Neil cited the closure of four New England power stations as examples of Maine “getting the short end of the stick.” 

Vermont Yankee (closed) Pilgrim Station (closing), Brayton Point (closing), and Salem Harbor (closed, but facing NIMBY opposition to its plan to re-fuel the oil/coal plant with natural gas) together had almost equal generating capacity as all the Maine power producers combined.  “But now people down there don’t want power plants in their back yards,” O’Neil said.  “They’d rather ruin Maine, and that’s just plain wrong.”

Closing dirty old Massachusetts coal/oil plants like Brayton (1500 MW) and Salem Harbor (750 MW) is certainly good for Maine air.  But the owners' attempts to re-fuel those plants to natural gas has met fierce opposition.  Closing nukes like Vermont Yankee (620 MW) and Pilgrim (690 MW) only increases New England's need for base load / dispatchable power, not stochastic.  Even if we were to build 15,000 MW of wind, three days out of four we would still need the dispatchable generation to keep the lights on.  "Capacity payments to those firm New England plants have grown from $1 Billion to $4 Billion in just five years. Every penny of that comes from our light bills," O'Neil said.

The redundancy and its resulting cost-shifting is unsustainable. Moreover, all four of the above generation plants are/were near population centers, not requiring expensive new transmission from the outlying regions that in 20 years is likely to be obsolete.  (Utilities are thrilled to build new transmission and get their guaranteed 12% return on equity.)  "Yes, when you add it all up," O'Neil said, "building wind is essentially an extravagant waste of money, so ruining the hills and mountains isn't worth it."

“Ratepayers and taxpayers will be forced to squander billions of dollars on unnecessary and unreliable energy infrastructure that will still require conventional generation to keep the grid going, and that won’t put a dent in climate change,” O’Neil said. “We need dispatchable base load power if we want to keep closing those older plants. This is like trying to replace jumbo jets with hang gliders.” 

O’Neil pointed out that the plan “is being pitched as only affecting ratepayers in southern New England.  That’s ludicrous,” O’Neil said.  The negative impacts will harm all the system’s ratepayers via costs for energy, transmission and capacity payments for dispatchable plants.  “Anyone who thinks they’ll be insulated from this massive hit is dreaming.”

If the projects are built the industrial assault on rural Maine would be unprecedented, with over 2000 additional installed megawatts of 50 story wind towers in some of the state’s most revered places.  The expected output from the inefficient wind buildup would only supply about 500 of the 16,000 to 26,000 megawatts that the New England grid requires on a daily basis. “Starry-eyed policymakers in southern New England are jumping off a cliff, and they want to take us with them,” said O’Neil.  “Maine needs to defend itself.”

FMM has been helping rural citizens in the Expedited Wind Permitting Area to opt-out of that fast-tracked wind category. About three dozen communities are doing that between now and June 30, when the opportunity ends.  O’Neil sees the clean RFP as a wake up call for dozens more townships and plantations in the unorganized territory. “We are working now on getting lots more opt-out petitions submitted,” he said.   http://www.tinyurl.com/GetOut2016

FMM is also taking its message to both policymakers and the public in southern New England. “40 years ago Maine got rid of 8000 billboards, causing harm to many local businesses,” O’Neil said, “in part to make Maine more attractive to our tourist friends from our south. Now they want to come here and plaster thousands of gyrating skyscrapers all over our mountains because they don’t want to see them in their own states. Mainers need to express our outrage at the lunacy of this plan.”  

Contact Chris O’Neil  (207) 590-3842


Maine citizens are irritating wind speculators

WCSH-TV in Portland and WLBZ-TV in Bangor, sister stations that have the largest media audience in Maine, aired a story a few days ago about petitions that have been submitted to the state’s Land Use Planning Commission by the Moosehead Region Futures Committee. Long story short, the petitions are a critical step in restoring land use rights and protections that were stripped from a tiny percentage of Maine people when Governor John Baldacci signed the Wind Energy Act into law in 2008.

Jeremy Paine, the ever-present lobbyist who is paid by the wind industry to ladle out PR mumbo jumbo, was not happy, characterizing those who signed the petitions as “people who are trying to drive off investment.”

That is EXACTLY what we are trying to do, and we hope it works. Because “investment” that depends so heavily on taxpayer and ratepayer subsidies, that produces no real benefits to the people of Maine, that threatens the state’s economy --- is investment that SHOULD be driven off, with a vengeance.

We are particularly pleased by this telling story excerpt on the TV stations’ web sites: “Opponents to the petition, including the Maine Renewable Energy Association, a non-profit trade association supporting renewable energy, says it’s merely a stall tactic that will create uncertainty and drive away developers.”

Clearly, wind opponents are making an impact, and getting under the industry's skin. This petition process might be one of the most effective tactics to date in the long fight to keep giant wind turbines from ruining Maine’s most pristine mountains and wild areas.

Congratulations and sincere thanks to the Moosehead Region Futures Committee, as well as dozens of other individuals all over rural Maine for their hard work gathering signatures.  Of course it would be remiss not to thank the hundreds of citizens who convinced the Maine Legislature to make the petition process possible.

If you’d like to learn more about the petition process and get personally involved, a good place to start is “Wind energy to suffer another blow in Maine,” a blog post Friends of Maine’s Mountains published in late December. Let’s keep the pressure on!

Wind peddlers will never catch us off guard

Watch this video if you’d like a brief summary of the likely goings-on in Augusta during the upcoming legislative session.

What all opponents of industrial wind turbines in Maine wilderness areas come to realize is that idealism is not a very practical tool in this fight. Outrage and indignation about "what’s right” don't really matter --- which is hard to accept. In fact, one of the first lessons we all learn is that if we’re not careful and we don’t pay attention, wind developers have no hesitation at all about using very sneaky maneuvers. The only way for us to counter is to be in Augusta to watch them like a hawk. (NEED AN EXAMPLE of how sneaky the wind industry is? Read this REVEALING INVESTIGATIVE REPORT.)

We all have to be vigilant and share information. Count on FMM to always be investigating what’s going on in the hallways and hearing rooms at the Statehouse, at the regulatory agencies, and in the courts. And of course, we’re always happy to know what YOU are hearing out in the field. If you ever want to pass along information, please feel free to reach us at mainemountainfriends@gmail.com.


Wind energy to suffer another blow in Maine

(Weld, Maine) Earlier this month, the Maine Supreme Court handed wind industrialists a landmark defeat.

Now, a Maine environmental group is following that up by mailing instructions this week to 6,000 registered voters in Maine’s unorganized territory, part of an educational campaign to explain how to "opt out" of Maine's Expedited Permitting Area for Wind Energy, also called the Expedited Area (EA).

Funded and distributed by Friends of Maine’s Mountains (FMM), the mailer spells out how residents of the state’s most remote townships and plantations can obtain a petition from the Maine Land Use Planning Commission (LUPC). With very few signatures, petitions can remove all or part of these localities from the Expedited Area, which means that any future wind development would need to win zoning approval from LUPC before it applies for a permit.

Wind projects proposed in these areas are currently not required to do so. The unorganized territory comprises the majority of the state’s land mass, but it is home to just one percent of the population. The EA was shrewdly created in a little-understood maneuver of the Maine Legislature, when it unanimously passed the Wind Energy Act in 2008. Lawmakers wanted to make it quicker and easier to build industrial wind turbines in rural Maine. The net result was that a tiny percentage of Maine people were stripped of land use rights and protections that citizens in the rest of the state enjoy. More than 50 Maine towns in other parts of the state have adopted protective wind energy ordinances since 2008, but residents of the unorganized territory lost the ability to do the same, the moment Governor John Baldacci signed the Wind Energy Act into law.

“As was revealed by the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting, the entire process was capricious and secretive,” said Chris O’Neil, a policy consultant to FMM. “The devious manner in which these folks were stripped of their rights was, at the time, grasped by very few.” (Click for additional VIDEO COMMENTARY by Chris O’Neil.)

O’Neil said opposition to wind projects has escalated significantly since the Wind Energy Act passed, but because the Act remains law, applications filed for projects in the Expedited Area are effectively rubber-stamped as they navigate the process to secure a permit. He said that by getting enough signatures on a petition, wind opponents in that part of the state will be able to regain their rights.

“The required number of valid signatures is low, just ten percent of voter turnout total in the last gubernatorial election. So a township in which twenty people voted in 2014 would only need two signatures to secure an effective remedy and opt out,” O’Neil said.

O’Neil warned that there is one catch --- there’s a very short window of time in which LUPC will accept petitions, from January 1 through June 30. He said residents can start gathering signatures now, however, and that at least 25 petitions are already circulating. FMM mailed the instructions Friday, so residents will begin receiving them in the next few days.

To get your petition click here:   http://www.tinyurl.com/GetOut2016

Friends of Maine’s Mountains (FMM) is a nonprofit organization that opposes the environmental and economic destruction from industrial wind energy. For more information: http://www.FriendsofMainesMountains.org.


WABI: environmental damage by wind industrialists

Don't be surprised by this TV news report by WABI-TV in Bangor, in which residents of these small Maine towns express their indignation that an out-of-state wind mogul is damaging their lives and not affording them simple respect.

Then, below, click on the gallery and take a look at these stunning photographs taken in Vermont by Roger Irwin and Steve Wright. SHOCKING. They illustrate very plainly what it really requires to erect an industrial complex of giant wind turbines on the top of any mountain. In Vermont and in our state, it requires the destruction of scenic mountains, FOREVER.

Maine’s economy depends on the tourism dollar. Hikers, skier, campers, hunters and leaf-peepers are tourists who value Maine's natural resources very highly.

But unknown to most Mainers, as industrialists are destroying the state's most precious natural resources, turbine electricity generated on Maine mountains is going out of state to Massachusetts and Connecticut. In Maine, turbines do nothing to get us off oil, because our electricity already comes from overwhelmingly clean sources. And imagine the damage that clearing forest land for transmission lines, which will cost Maine people billions, will inflict on taxpayers and ratepayers here. Just so our neighbors to the south can sanctimoniously claim they're using "clean" energy.

Should you be alarmed? Yes. Many thanks to Peak Keepers of Vermont’s Mountains for publishing their fine online brochure, and for bringing this grave threat to our attention. CLICK on gallery below.