Media told 10% of the story…here’s the rest of it

A message from Rand Stowell, president of Friends of Maine's Mountains:

Anybody who opposes industrial wind in Maine is familiar with hearing one-sided stories. Unfortunately, another one ran yesterday. One thing we've learned through the years: try to tell the truth about the industrial wind lobby, and you attract attention. Even from the state's top law enforcement official.

As Founder and current President of Friends of Maine’s Mountains (FMM), I write to thank our supporters who saw recent news accounts and contacted us to ask questions. Below you will read the answers to your questions. FMM has enjoyed support from a broad group of people, and it still does. Since the unfortunate Attorney General matter was closed your reception has been heartwarming.  FMM is pleased to be stronger than ever.

In early 2014 FMM was asked by the Maine Attorney General’s (AG) office to cooperate with an inquiry into FMM’s business practices. FMM is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation registered in Maine. The AG oversees non-profit corporations in the state. FMM fully cooperated, providing every available record ever generated; all of our books, files, bank statements, emails, legal records, meeting minutes…everything. It was more extensive than an IRS audit, and it clearly showed that there was no wrongdoing.

After ten months FMM and the AG agreed to a few changes in FMM’s bylaws, and a major distraction and drag on our resources was put behind us.

Why did FMM come under the AG’s scrutiny?  At least one former ally, seeking to discredit FMM, contacted the AG with sensational stories of wrongdoing.

FMM’s enemies had apparently hoped to see the Attorney General press charges for supposedly heinous offenses. It was an exhausting exercise, but now that FMM has defended the attack and finally put it behind us, we are eager to resume our important work. 

There will always be voices of dissent. Dissent must be aired, and aired constructively. But it is not ok for dissent to come destructively, especially from our own side. This recent unfortunate story was instigated by enemies of FMM to undermine and sabotage FMM. That was not dissent; it was destruction. 

Today I will write just this once to set the record straight and to correct the malicious and destructive criticism that some of FMM's one-time allies sadly decided to levy.  

"Malicious" not only toward FMM, but also malicious to individuals engaged in conducting FMM's business. 

"Destructive" of FMM, its mission, and our personal/professional reputations.

Considering the vitriol that came last year from these former allies, both directly to us and to the public, one might have thought that FMM had injured someone or something, when in fact, it had done neither. On the contrary, it was FMM’s detractors who intended to cause harm, as I will share here.    

Malicious and destructive are strong terms, but there is no other description for the attack. 

FMM is a corporation. I was one of its founders, and I have served as a director and officer since 2009. Directors and officers of a corporation have a fiduciary duty to the corporation under the Maine Non-Profit Corporations Act (Title 13-B). Moreover, FMM is not a membership organization or a democracy.  While it is highly sensitive to the needs and wants of its supporters, its duty is to itself and its mission.  

Other than FMM’s vendors, no person engages in FMM affairs for personal financial gain. In fact, many (if not most) of FMM's vendors also contribute to the cause when those vendors perform work at discounted fees, and some have even written-off portions of their bills.  Chris O'Neil is one of those vendors who provide professional services to FMM at a deep discount. Through discounts (and also write-offs) he has donated tens of thousands of dollars to the corporation.  I am retired but I am an attorney.  I do not charge FMM for my volunteer service, but if the hours I have donated to FMM had been billed, it would have cost FMM hundreds of thousand of dollars. The work is gratifying and I do not write to receive accolades.

“Paying bills” brings us to why I write today, as it is central to the recent attack on FMM. 

My former home sat on the north shore of picturesque Webb Lake in Weld. When I learned that a developer called “Patriot Renewables” had plans to build a wind project on the opposite shore, atop Saddleback Ridge and another mountain, I did what most people do: I got interested, got educated, and got involved.  

In 2009 I teamed up with a few colleagues and we incorporated FMM. While the focus of FMM as a 501(c)(3) was to be educational and statewide, FMM also engaged in litigation opposing the specific Saddleback Ridge project. This was (and is) in addition to all the statewide work that FMM does. Over the years we have opposed and litigated numerous projects at all levels of Maine government. Saddleback Ridge was ultimately permitted and it is now under construction, but it was a long fight.

Through four years in the Saddleback Ridge saga, FMM opposed, lost, appealed, opposed, lost, appealed…over and over. In the first round of permitting, Saddleback Ridge Wind did what customarily is done in litigation:  they approached the opposing party (FMM) to discuss if a negotiated settlement would allow the project to advance.

No actual offer was made, yet FMM was firm: "No way. FMM will take this all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary."  

At the various permitting stages and subsequent appeals, some victories were gained. FMM assembled over 20 Saddleback neighbors and abutters and arranged to have them named as appellants in the suit. Additionally FMM used this very Saddleback case as the lever in getting the Department of Environmental Protection and Legislature to write new protective statewide wind turbine noise rules. By gaining a deed to an adjacent mountain, FMM also forced the developer to significantly reduce the number of turbines, thereby shrinking the project and protecting that mountain.

During these years the developer, Saddleback Ridge Wind (SRW), was frustrated by FMM's stalwart efforts. SRW gradually reached settlement accommodations with many of the neighbors in the appeal. Some neighbors received cash from the developer, others got noise easement compensation, and some even sold their properties to Saddleback Ridge Wind for above-market prices.  Before reaching the final FMM settlement in January, 2014, FMM got in touch with all the remaining individual appellants and advised them that the case did not have a prayer, and it was going to be dismissed, so they would be wise to seriously consider what they had been offered by the wind company.  

Settlements are confidential, but FMM estimates that neighbors extracted over a million dollars from the developer. You can rest assured that those people would not have been accommodated had it not been for FMM’s efforts, and none of them would express an opinion that FMM did not fight a good fight. As one of those neighbors who would lose property value, I also received mitigation, and only after everyone else had the opportunity to be compensated.

Concurrently during those years, SRW continued to ask FMM if it was interested in "settling" the case. This is common practice in litigation. But FMM always refused to settle, as long as there was a chance its attorney could find a creative way to stop the project despite our disadvantages under the Wind Siting Law.  On several occasions FMM, always struggling to pay for these costly endeavors, asked its attorney to handicap the chances of winning. He was willing to press on, but he always advised that FMM would be wise to settle and salvage something, perhaps recover some of our litigation costs. He was sure that the project would ultimately be permitted and built.  

As with all wind projects, our ability to delay can be a victory of sorts. Financing arrangements, one-time Stimulus grants, and the annually expiring Production Tax Credit were all good reasons for FMM to stall the project (and good reasons for the wind company to settle with FMM).  Delay also allowed FMM to raise money from contributors, which has always been a difficult chore. That said, our attorney was dedicated and very fair in granting FMM forbearance, discounts, and even write offs as the fees would be incurred in bunches. Many readers of this post have responded to FMM's oft-heard plea:  "Please send money.  If we can raise $15,000 by Friday, our attorney will reduce his bill by $5,000."

After three years of opposing and appealing and delaying Saddleback Ridge Wind, FMM lost its third appeal, finally at the Board of Environmental Protection (BEP).  The next level of appeal would have been a return to the Supreme Court. FMM's lawyer informed us that he would remove himself from the litigation and would not appeal the case to the Supreme Court because the case was “essentially frivolous” and could be “professionally embarrassing” to him, possibly inviting “sanctions” from the Bar Overseers.  

FMM, with me temporarily acting as attorney, filed the Supreme Court appeal anyway.

With a month to go until our Supreme Court date, FMM had new Directors (another not uncommon phenomenon, as the work is hard) who had generously promised to both find and fund an attorney.  While those promises invigorated FMM's spirits, neither promise was fulfilled. I was suddenly and reluctantly the attorney of record in the Supreme Court case, and like FMM's lawyer, I knew that the case had no merit. I shared it with several attorneys who confirmed the same opinion. None of them would take the case either.  I advised the Board that I would be withdrawing as FMM’s lawyer, and if they insisted on going to the Supreme Court they needed to find (and fund) another lawyer. No lawyer was found.  

Saddleback Ridge and all our other activities were costly. Importantly, the Saddleback Ridge case was FMM’s way to test the new Wind Law on its various issues. Because we used this case to challenge the Wind Law in every way we could, FMM amassed payables into the six-figures. Hurtling toward the Supreme Court with a hopeless legal position and with an opposing party possibly still willing to "pay our fees" in the case (which is a common outcome in litigation) FMM faced a decision. Abandon the case?  Press forward?  Settle?

Settling, however prudent, was an obviously unpleasant thought from a public relations standpoint.  FMM has been critical of various Maine organizations that accept the wind industry's money and coincidentally SUPPORT the wind industry.  Of course FMM is obviously different: there is no question that FMM staunchly OPPOSES the wind industry.

So in the final analysis, given the situation, I decided that FMM had gotten all it could from the Saddleback litigation. With the opposing party prepared to compensate FMM for legal fees I was prepared to consider a settlement offer. Indeed it would have been a breach of my corporate fiduciary duty to NOT consider such a proposal that would pay the bills.

The contrast was stunning. Rather than address the needs of the Corporation at that critical time, one new Director, who had been elected a few months earlier on his promises of raising “millions” of dollars, chose instead to donate bumper stickers and a new website that made amateurish and non-credible pronouncements in contradiction to FMM's mission/message. This website was called "Saving Maine" and it was subtitled "A project of FMM."  I was willing to see what this "project" might do, but from the start it quickly became apparent that Saving Maine was not in sync with FMM's mission, it would not help win Saddleback, and it would not raise money for the pending case.  

That Director was steadfast in opposition to SRW and never fully supported settlement on any terms, or even consideration thereof. We joked about his “never surrender / die on this hill” attitude, but it was not a joke.  A Director must put the corporation above his own emotions. Still FMM knew that at least three and maybe four of the five Directors understood the situation and would accept a reasonable settlement if it was again offered, as it had been from time to time for the duration of the case. Another new Director, who had, after assessing the SRW case and the chances of winning as weak, said that settling the case with SRW was "a no brainer."  

With respected vendors, consultants, lawyers, and other creditors pressing FMM for payment, with new wind project proposals to oppose elsewhere in Maine, with a public communications plan ready to be deployed, and with a new legislative session about to begin, it actually WAS a no brainer to accept funding to cover FMM’s costs in return for abandoning a hopeless case...if the wind company was still willing to pay. Sure enough, to avoid missing the forthcoming construction season, SRW approached FMM with one last offer. 

Indeed, any reasonable person who understands business and who understands a Director’s fiduciary duty would have to consider such an offer, given the circumstances. Instead, the first Director above continued to promise "millions" in donations from his Rolodex of "heavy hitters," despite months of this same promise and no results.  He even declared to the Board that if he ever attained success fundraising, then "no new monies coming in to FMM will go to pay old obligations," and he actively lobbied other Directors to support the policy wherein “those vendors are not my concern.” He was planning to take FMM “in a new direction.” 

Astonishingly, he declared that the payables incurred for FMM’s good work prior to his arrival were not his obligation, and he had no intention to honor those obligations.

I found it to be unconscionable and immoral, and I refused to be part of willfully "stiffing" FMM's good creditors who had been dedicated, generous and patient with us.  While this Director’s breach of fiduciary duty which would have driven the corporation to bankruptcy was not the last straw, it could have been.

Meanwhile the second Director (who later was found not to be a Director at all), after colluding with the first Director, suddenly flipped his “no brainer” position wherein he had been amenable to settlement discussions. 

What ensued was unfortunate and extraordinary, but these two men formed a seditious faction within the Board, engaging in multiple and egregious breaches of fiduciary duty. They even plotted, in covertly-held Director meetings, conducting illegal secret votes, to remove the Directors who remained open to settlement.

The outcome of their subversive secret meetings was a scheme to remove Chris O'Neil and me from the Board, to “stiff” the vendors, and to steer FMM in a new and ill-advised direction away from its mission (and most certainly into bankruptcy). As founder and President, I was determined that FMM would not be hijacked and crashed by the Saving Maine uprising, where it was assured to wither and die in insignificance and obscurity.

The FMM Executive Committee, which had been officially created by FMM in 2010, acting as the Board, as authorized by Maine Statute, by the FMM Bylaws, and by FMM's Articles of Incorporation, voted to remove the two insurrectionist Directors. The removal of Directors was clearly determined to be "for cause" despite no requirement in the FMM Bylaws or in Maine Law that cause be established as grounds for dismissal.

FMM memorialized this highly extraordinary, albeit necessary and appropriate action in great detail, delineating the "causes" in its Minutes and corporate files.  Firings are seldom pretty, but sometimes they simply must happen. The two gentlemen in question were not only a bad fit for FMM, they quickly became a bad fit run amok. In these firings, FMM was muted, professional and courteous. We said and did nothing injurious to the dismissed individuals, and months later FMM even publicly praised their subsequent “Saving Maine” advertising efforts when asked by reporters about them.  

FMM simply knew it was time for us to amicably part company and let them pursue their Saving Maine agenda outside of FMM.

As it should be, paramount to the Board was protecting the corporation, extraordinary as dismissal was in this situation. Sadly, those former allies turned on FMM, making slanderous and libelous statements, and as we later discovered, they made sensational accusations to the AG. They were malicious and vindictive despite FMM's causing no harm to them, to FMM, or anyone else that might remotely justify such negative and cannibalistic attacks.

Even the Wind Lobby knows better than to be so abusive of FMM.

Under the law a nonprofit corporation’s founder is not allowed to donate funding beyond a certain level. Because of this impediment, in addition to donating to FMM I had also made a zero-interest loan a few years ago when FMM needed to pay an urgent bill. Moreover, Chris O'Neil's company, like other vendors, had some invoices not yet paid. (I will note that without the great efforts of Chris, FMM would not be in business today.) So he and I were among FMM’s creditors and received no special treatment. It was a vast stretch for the enemies to infer that preserving the corporation and paying all the creditors was a conflict, or that it was injurious to any person, entity, or law.  

Because it settled the litigation against Saddleback, FMM was able to pay all its creditors and continue its mission. Fiduciary duty was upheld.

For whatever reason, despite suffering no grievance, the former allies instigated a sensational complaint to the Maine Attorney General. For several months in 2014, FMM devoted hundreds of hours to cooperating with the AG, who is compelled to look into allegations levied against a nonprofit. Tens of thousands of emails had to be recovered, categorized, organized, and submitted.  Five years worth of records: every letter, every cancelled check, every donation, every Meeting Minutes, every government filing... all of it was gathered and submitted to the AG.  

FMM clearly showed the AG that it had never acted in any improper or illegal fashion. In fact, FMM even waived attorney-client privilege during the inquiry because there was nothing in the record that could incriminate. The AG inquiry, while only civil and not criminal, was a massive distraction that cost FMM precious time and money, not to mention damaging public relations for all the good people who support our cause.

I still shake my head wondering why our own allies pursued such acts of vengeance, using both the high office of the Attorney General and the press as tools to discredit a good organization like FMM, and the good people involved in it. Please note that FMM’s compliance with the inquiry was an organizational burden, in that it required hundreds of hours of our time.  During that period last spring, by one day FMM missed a filing deadline on a wind project and it was unable to attend a critical hearing in Augusta. It is confounding to think that people on our side were the perpetrators of such mayhem.

If the AG's office once thought that individuals associated with FMM gained some personal benefit by the Saddleback outcome, the civil inquiry has proven that wrong. The 20+ neighbors of the project suffered harm, most commonly property value loss, because of the wind project.  All of those individuals and families were offered compensation by SRW for that harm, including this neighbor, me. Most of them eventually accepted something. That compensation to neighbors came in separate transactions from FMM's, and it was not in anyone’s case personal financial gain; it was mitigation for harm, generally property value diminution.  Of course, FMM also won lower noise limits for those neighbors who chose to stay in their homes.

FMM's enemies inexplicably fanned the flames of defamation by badgering the AG with sensational claims that we had performed all sorts of heinous acts, harming our own nonprofit corporation, its vendors and the public. A year and tens of thousands of dollars later, with no proof that any such harm had occurred, the AG offered to settle the civil inquiry without charges, without any court action, and without public comment. FMM reluctantly agreed. Our attorneys were certain that no judge would see any merit in the AG’s approach, and that it would be dismissed easily. It was a “no brainer” and we could refocus on mission.

But nobody wants to fight the Attorney General’s office in an expensive court case from which no good can come even in victory, particularly when the instigators of the whole affair seemed intent on discrediting FMM, vindictively feeding the "story" to the press while privately inciting discord among you, FMM’s supporters.  Settling with the AG, like settling with SRW, was the right fiduciary decision. Moreover, current events indicate that the AG had much more serious issues going on and did not have the inclination to pursue FMM, and certainly did not want to lose to FMM. This all would have gone away quietly with the AG agreement had it not been for the malicious motives of FMM’s enemies, who acquired the agreement and ran to the press with it the day after we signed it.

The business changes in the AG agreement were generally standard operating procedures for nonprofit corporations, although FMM agreed to some provisions that actually exceeded the law's requirements. Moreover, many of the measures were already in place at FMM.  As a vendor to FMM who was occasionally required to recuse himself from voting on his company's relationship with FMM, Chris O'Neil readily volunteered to resign from the Board. Likewise, to show good faith and transparency, I agreed to remain a Director, but step down as President for two years. To inject new Board talent at the AG’s request, FMM is now expanding with the election of additional Directors.  

FMM has survived a trying ordeal. We have accomplished much in this era of wind development favoritism. At the end of last year Maine’s statutory goal for wind development was 2000 megawatts.  Working together, we held them to just over 400 megawatts. Every week FMM consults with and assists wind opposition groups in Maine. Our public education efforts are daily changing the hearts and minds of citizens and public officials.

This is all good but there is much work to do.  We have moved beyond this difficult chapter in our history and we are focused on our common goals, for the good of Maine.

Thank you for your continued support.

Rand N. Stowell,  President

 

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.”