NEWSFLASH: paper spikes political correctness on wind energy

Too bad this is news, but it is; and to honor the occasion we might have to petition the Governor to declare a state holiday.

The industrial wind turbine industry has taken a serious body maine's press corps finally taking a critical look underneath the hood?

The industrial wind turbine industry has taken a serious body maine's press corps finally taking a critical look underneath the hood?

One of Maine’s venerable newspapers, The Ellsworth American, has abandoned pack journalism and political correctness, and instead has introduced some critical thinking to the debate on wind energy in Maine. It has published an editorial this week that actually expresses skepticism about wind industry subsidies, which, in the world of Maine media, is practically unheard of.

So badly do Maine reporters want to “believe in green,” so skilled has the industry PR machine been, and so compromising have been their donations to organizations like MPBN (link) and Maine Audubon (link), that true analytical thinking has been largely absent from Maine newspapers and airwaves. Until this week, that is, when the Ellsworth American aimed a bright light on some inconvenient truths about the wind industry in Maine:

“Since Maine’s wind energy act became law in 2008, the energy playing field has been tilted sharply in favor of wind developers and against the state’s citizens and the environment in which they live.” And more:

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

Friends of Maine’s Mountains has been pointing out the media’s penchant for ignoring stories that are critical of, or damage to, the wind industry. We’ve had media in Massachusetts (link) and Hawaii (link) cover wind energy setbacks here in Maine that reporters here in the state refused to cover. The Ellsworth American’s editorial, along with previous excellent reporting by the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting, may indicate that at long last, the free ride in the media that the wind industry has always enjoyed may be coming to an end. And speaking of the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting, the following are some excerpts, for those who haven’t read them yet, by reporter Naomi Schalit.

DAMNING EXCERPT: While he was Maine’s chief utilities regulator, Kurt Adams accepted an ownership interest in a leading wind energy company. One month later, in May 2008, he went to work for that company, First Wind, as a senior vice president. The move from a state job to the private sector richly rewarded Adams: A "summary compensation table" in a recent SEC filing shows that Adams's 2009 compensation of $1.3 million included $315,000 in salary, $658,000 in stock awards, $29,000 of "other" compensation and $315,000 in "non-equity incentives." Full article, “PUC chairman took equity stake in wind company,” at this link.

DAMNING EXCERPT: Once the committee passed the wind energy bill on to the full House and Senate, lawmakers there didn’t even debate it. They passed it unanimously and with no discussion. House Majority Leader Hannah Pingree, a Democrat from North Haven, says legislators probably didn’t know how many turbines would be constructed in Maine if the law’s goals were met – the number is likely to be at least 1,000 and perhaps as high as 2,000. Instead, they got carried along in the wave of enthusiasm that emerged from the administration, the legislative committee, wind power developers and the governor’s task force. “Wind power was exciting,” says Pingree. “I think legislators had a sense we wanted to be bold and have the state be a real leader in this area -- they may not have known how many turbines, or the challenges of siting that many turbines.” Full article, “Wind-swept task force set the rules,” at this link.

DAMNING EXCERPT: There was never a mandate for the task force to examine the relative merits of wind power development in Maine. Instead, members started from the assumption that wind power should be developed in Maine, and the sooner, the better. Full article, “Wind power bandwagon hits bump in the road,” at this link.