EASY, SO EASY --- that's what this is for you

How’d you like to help us arrange a funeral for the Production Tax Credit (PTC)?

I didn’t attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it.
— Author Unknown

As you probably know already, the PTC is a terrible tax policy that “has fostered a rush of developers who are rewarded for siting turbines on every free acre that has or might get transmission access, no matter who is in the way and no matter the cost to citizens.” It’s time to kill the PTC.

Many of you will be getting an e-mail soon, sent via Constant Contact, from Friends of Maine’s Mountains. It will be a copy of a letter we are sending to U.S. Senators King and Collins, and U.S. Representatives Pingree and Michaud, asking them not to renew the PTC. You’ll be able to “sign” the letter by reply e-mail to us. (If you’re not on our list but you’d like to receive this, please drop a quick note to mainemountainfriends@gmail.com). Once we collect all the signatures, we will facilitate their delivery to Congress.

You oppose industrial wind factories on the tops of Maine’s beautiful mountain ranges? This is an EASY way for you to pitch in. If you'd like to read the letter, CLICK HERE. Happy Thanksgiving.

“Everyone has a stake in thwarting bunko schemes of such enormity”

At its annual summit earlier this month, Friends of Maine's Mountains (FMM) rallied several anti-wind organizations together and also welcomed Jon Boone as keynote speaker, just a few days after the election in which the wind industry had bet heavily on the wrong gubernatorial candidate, as we explained in THIS previous blog post.)

Mr. Boone pulled no punches. He is a resident of Maryland, an author and former university administrator, someone who has thought very deeply about the “get rich quick” aspects of government’s rush to prop up industrial wind speculators with steep subsidies and ratepayer increases. He is the founder of Stop Ill Wind, and one of the earliest American leaders in the fight against industrial wind power. His presentation was entitled, “Energy, Power, Productivity: Why Wind Represents Dysfunctional Technology.” If you’d like to watch the tail end of his presentation CLICK HERE, but he summed it all up very nicely with one simple sentence, “Everyone has a stake in thwarting bunko schemes of such enormity.”

As part of its educational mission, the reason our organization was formed several years ago, Friends of Maine’s Mountains gathers concerned citizens from around the state every November to discuss ways to protect Maine's environment and economy from the impacts of industrial wind power. In addition to Boone, attendees this year enjoyed presentations from the group that is planning a statewide referendum on wind power, ratepayer advocates, opponents to various wind developments, and conservation organizations. This was one of the best conferences yet, and we hope next year’s will be even better. Maybe we’ll see you there, to compare notes on the fierce and effective opposition that all of us expect to deploy in the next 12 months. As this year’s attendees surely agree, it is vital that all of us continue to organize, inform, cooperate, collaborate and communicate.

Kvetch & complain, or achieve & accomplish?

What are YOU personally more likely to do? If it’s the latter, then maybe we can help.

If you have something to say, we can help.

If you have something to say, we can help.

Friends of Maine’s Mountains is an educational organization, but we’re not afraid to be aggressive if the situation calls for it. When it’s time to act, that’s what we try to do. CLICK HERE for a link to one recent example. Let’s give you another example. This space, the one in which we are now communicating with you, is our blog. It functions as both the FMM newspaper and the FMM television station. It attracts thousands of visitors in any given month. What’s published here is followed by reporters, by legislators, and the general public. And what’s more, our network continues to grow as we publish more and more fresh material about the economic Ponzi scheme known as “industrial wind.”

One of the most common complaints we hear is that the media won’t publish your side of the story. So guess what? We’ll publish it. That’s right, folks. You have news that’s not being covered? We’ll cover it. You want to put together a video and have it reach a decent-sized audience? We’ll put you “on the air.”

Action is the foundational key to all success.
— Pablo Picasso

Google “wind opposition Maine” and you’ll see that FMM is one of the first search results that pop up. That’s why most of the reporters covering the recent sale of First Wind came looking for Friends of Maine’s Mountains when they needed an authoritative quote from the opposition. (Reporters Google, too, you know!)

So it occurred to us --- if we have this access, why not give YOU access to our growing network? We know there is a lot of expertise and wisdom out there, and we figure the citizens of Maine should be able to tap into your wisdom. Whaddya say, game to give it a shot? Great. Here are some basic guidelines.

  • Alert us by dropping an e-mail to: fmmpressoffice@gmail.com.
  • Be receptive, please, to suggested edits that improve the piece.
  • When writing a blog entry, try to keep it to 3 or 4 paragraphs.
  • When producing a video, try to keep finished product between 1-3 minutes.
  • If you have raw video that you’re not sure how to edit, we will consider providing those services.
  • In all cases we will credit the writer/producer, happily. However, if you would rather contribute anonymously, be sure to make that clear.
  • It’s OK to be tough. But we ask that you be as professional as possible, and as factual as possible.
  • Especially when writing blog posts, try to supply as many supporting Internet links as possible, and photographs. It’s always best to create the most informative piece possible, and that includes documentation. Readers like to verify.
  • For large files, especially video, alert us ahead of time at fmmpressoffice@gmail.com, and we’ll set up a file transfer protocol which will make things easier.

You say the media is not covering your story? Remember, things have changed, and this applies now to all of us: WE ARE THE MEDIA. SO PUBLISH…and achieve.

Greedily CASHING OUT in Maine

First Wind's schtick was money, not progress

Hello Friends. Perhaps First Wind should have named itself “Me First.” Because this past week offered the most blatant proof yet that the company’s interest in Maine was never energy independence for our state. It was ALWAYS purely financial. Of course, there are still many starry-eyed believers out there addicted to the PR opium that the industry traffics in Maine. But for sober and pragmatic analysts, this week’s news confirms (yet again) that Maine is a prime target for plunder, and unabashedly picking the pockets of the state’s ratepayers and taxpayers is how Wall Street will accomplish that.

By now you've seen the news that our biggest menace is being sold to SunEdison, a major player in solar energy. Lots of people are buzzing about it. Here are our initial thoughts:   

IT"S CALLED GETTING RICH. That was always the goal for Paul Gaynor, CEO of First Wind. It had NOTHING to do with helping Maine people. (Photo by W. Marc Bernsau, Boston Business Journal

IT"S CALLED GETTING RICH. That was always the goal for Paul Gaynor, CEO of First Wind. It had NOTHING to do with helping Maine people. (Photo by W. Marc Bernsau, Boston Business Journal

We know First Wind was financially under water and headed for bankruptcy unless it found a white knight to bail it out. Nova Scotia utility Emera could have been the white knight, but for three years now their planned merger, called a Joint Venture Holdco, has been hung up in legal challenges. We have seen the JV Holdco as illegal, but also as a way for First Wind to carpet bomb Maine with sprawling wind projects. We strongly opposed the merger.  

The hedge fund sharks at Madison Dearborn and DE Shaw, surely tired of taking losses (First Wind has been bleeding at least $10 million per month for the last few years), and worried about the Holdco's legal chances, probably called their Wall Street bankster buddies and worked out a fix.

The Board at Sun Edison is a gaggle of Wall Street investment bankers. The management and principals at SunEdison are a bunch of former Wall Street investment bankers. Think: Goldman Sachs, KKR, Blackstone. Citi, JP Morgan…the same incestuous crowd that brought us the mortgage-backed securities bubble which, when it burst, splattered all over the world economy.

They are simply pursuing their latest bubble scheme, this one complete with tax credits and government-imposed consumer mandates…but best of all, COVER (the public thinks it's saving the planet). Their LLCs exist to strip-out cash for as long as it flows. The same cabal has its hands on the political reigns of Washington DC, so watch for the FERC to push ISO-NE transmission upgrades. Watch for continued EPA restrictions on "dirty" generation.  All this when Maine is already a clean energy leader.*

(They) unveiled a deal on Monday to buy First Wind for up to $2.4 billion. That’s a nice reward for First Wind’s private equity backers, Madison Dearborn Partners and D.E. Shaw & Co.
— Jon Chesto, Managing Editor, Boston Business Journal

While Emera's deep pockets paired with First Wind's ambitious plans might have been a massive threat to Maine, at least Emera is a real business, likely to take a long and sustainable view. Witness their HVDC undersea cable investment connecting them to vast high quality clean energy in Newfoundland (NALCOR). That isn't a get rich quick scheme; it's a long term billion dollar + investment that builds value and critical infrastructure for society. SunEdison is in the business of extracting value. Paper. Get rich quick and stay rich. They will not be building critical infrastructure.

The pressing question for us, Friends, is whether they are only interested in First Wind's current projects, some of which are financed with junk 11% paper (think: sub-prime mortgages) so that they can sell that debt at 5%, therein creating more cash to strip? It's easy money when Treasuries are yielding so little. Or will they want, possibly without the Production Tax Credit, to develop new Maine wind projects? We know there are LOTS of wind testing towers (known as “met towers”) out there in Maine's mountains.

Not only could this alliance destroy Maine's Quality of Place, it could destroy the economy (again, and possibly with bailouts, again). With a quarter of New England's firm, dispatchable base load and peak load generating plants (capacity) nearing retirement, what is the grid going to replace them with? Two thousand 50 - story monstrosities in Maine that only work 15 minutes of every hour on average, and generally work when unnecessary?  How are we going to keep the lights on? How are we going to sustain industry? How are we going to pay our light bills if all this useless and unnecessary infrastructure is built?

In losing Emera we might have just put down a bad dog. In gaining SunEdison we might have just adopted a pack of wolves into our house.

*99 percent of Maine's electricity generation already comes from clean sources other than coal and oil. Maine has the #1 highest Renewable Portfolio Standard in the nation.  Only two states (Vermont and Idaho) produce lower CO2 emissions from electricity generation. Transportation is responsible for about half of Maine's CO2 emissions, 4 to 5 times more than from electricity. Yet we are being targeted for wind development and its expensive transmission buildup, even as our legislature unanimously approves increasing the speed limit on the highway!

###

Related Reading

Tough questions about spoiling view at Baxter State Park

Last week Friends of Maine’s Mountains, whose mission is educational, sent Chris O’Neil on an educational mission.

Katie Chapman (left), project manager for EDP Renewables, and Jeff Bishop, a member of the company's government relations team. Photo by Whit Richardson, Bangor Daily News.

Katie Chapman (left), project manager for EDP Renewables, and Jeff Bishop, a member of the company's government relations team. Photo by Whit Richardson, Bangor Daily News.

A Texas company that wants to build Maine’s largest industrial wind site in Aroostook County, just 30 miles from Baxter State Park, held a public meeting in Mars Hill. O’Neil is a government relations consultant to Friends, and we wanted him to ask some tough questions. EDP Renewables held its Number Nine Mountain Wind Project Public Informational Meeting (PIM) at the high school gym in Mars Hill. The red lights of the giant turbines on the mountain were flashing just behind the parking lot.

The PIM is required of the developer prior to its application submission, and a summary of the PIM must accompany the application. EDP says it will submit its application by year-end. About 50 people attended, many of them homeowners and camp owners in the Number Nine Lake - Presque Isle Lake area. Some attendees came from towns further south toward Houlton, because they are concerned about new transmission from the project.  

We've learned from previous PIMs that the wind developer likes to set it up "science fair" style, with easels and tables displaying maps, renderings, and other information about the project. Their casually-dressed project managers and PR people mill about the crowd, responding to questions, explaining things, etc. In addition to the EDP people, a Stantec engineer was there to handle technical matters. Nobody on the developer team appeared to be even 40 years old. It wasn't clear whether he was there to answer questions, but a gentleman from Maine Drilling and Blasting had driven up from his home in the Bangor area. 

Chris O'Neil, government relations consultant to Friends of Maine's Mountains.

Chris O'Neil, government relations consultant to Friends of Maine's Mountains.

That "science fair" format allows the developer to provide adequate opportunity for public questions and responses from the applicant. That bold line is straight from DEP Rule Chapter 2, Section 13, which dictates how the PIM must be conducted. Of course, we sent O’Neil to the meeting with questions, some of them provided by our allies.

During the approximately 30 minute "science fair" portion of the program, O’Neil met several of the concerned citizens as they looked anxiously at maps and pointed out their camp's proximity to turbines. He informed several people that they have the right to ask questions -- but not make statements -- per the DEP Rule. He told them to not fall into the trap of asking questions 1 on 1. After about 30 minutes, the company’s PR lady announced that she would show a brief slide show, and everybody sat in the bleachers on one side of the gym. O’Neil remained standing, in plain view. The PR person’s slide show was informational, as required by the DEP Rule. As she concluded the trade show, she said, "So that's the presentation. The Team is here and we'll make ourselves available around the room to answer questions if anyone has them."

One gentleman with whom O’Neil had earlier talked raised his hand in the bleachers and yelled: "I have a question."

The PR lady stuttered and looked nervously back at her team and said into the microphone: "We will all be here for you to ask us questions."

Another man: "I wanna hear his question. And the answer." Crowd:  A murmur of approving "yeahs." PR lady: "We really want to answer your questions and we'll be here to--"

That’s when O’Neil interrupted, "You are required by the rules to 'provide adequate opportunity for public questions.' That is not discretionary. This is that 'opportunity’ and these people deserve to have their questions aired for all to hear."

That resulted in lots of nervous "Who is that jerk in the suit?" looks on the faces of the EDP Team, and lots more "yeahs" from the crowd.

The gentleman in the crowd asked his question, and the PR person answered it. Then she attempted to thank everyone, with the sort of body language one uses when one is wrapping up. That’s when O’Neil jumped in again.

“I have a few questions."

Gentleman in the crowd, to PR lady: "Give him the mic so we can all hear." The PR lady, looking like she had acid indigestion, handed O’Neil the microphone, and he proceeded to very politely ask the questions. (The questions are listed at the end of this post.)

After O’Neil’s second question, one member of EDP Team said, "OK Chris, it's clear that you know the rules but we are not here to take testimony."

O’Neil looked at her sternly and said: "Ma'am, I represent a statewide group and thousands of people who have concerns about this project. I drove 300 miles to ask their questions so that you wouldn't have a thousand people here. You came to Maine proposing the biggest wind project in the northeast and it is serious business. Beginning tonight, you are no longer just delivering doughnuts to the snowmobile club. The application process effectively starts here, and we have questions and answers that will be part of the record. I assume you want to be a good neighbor. Do not be dismissive and do not treat us with hostility. You're in Maine and the game is on. Now play ball."

O’Neil proceeded with his questions. The EDP team did not answer any of the questions, although they tried and fumbled on a couple. When O’Neil finished he politely thanked the PR person and handed the microphone back to her. Then several other attendees asked questions.

O’Neil lingered after the formal conclusion of the session and connected with many of the local folks who will necessarily be the local opposition group. He handed out business cards and encouraged them to organize, offering to facilitate if necessary. EDP was clearly not happy that Friends of Maine’s Mountains crashed their party, but O’Neil did his job. For the record, here are the questions he asked:

November 12, 2014

Questions for Applicant - Number Nine Wind Project

1. Maine DEP Rule Chapter 2, Section 13 dictates the requirements for tonight’s Public Information Meeting: At the meeting, the applicant or its designee shall present a summary of the project; provide clear and concise written information that details the expected environmental impacts of the project and lists the state, local and federal licenses necessary for the project; and provide adequate opportunity for public questions and responses from the applicant. 

I thank you for the opportunity to ask a few questions, and in the interest of time, I would be pleased to allow you to defer responses to any question that might not be readily answered this evening. Will EDP provide written replies for the record if any question tonight remains unanswered?

2. Maine DEP Rule Chapter 2, Section 13 further dictates: The applicant must submit a signed certification attesting that a public informational meeting was noticed and held in accordance with this section. The submission must include an estimate of the number of attendees and a narrative responsive to any significant issues relevant to the licensing criteria that are raised at the meeting. The certification must be submitted with any application that requires a pre-application meeting pursuant to section 10(B) of this rule.

To the extent that you must submit sworn certification to DEP with your application, and to the extent one or more of my questions might be technical or misinterpreted, I request that you share your draft certification and narrative prior to your submission, so that we can be on the same page before it goes into the record. Will EDP agree to such collaboration?

 3. According to the NREL wind resource map, the proposed project area has poor to marginal wind quality. The Stetson and Stetson II wind projects 50 miles south are on similarly low hills with weak wind resources.  The Stetsons in 2012 achieved capacity factors of 21.4% and 18.4% respectively, but they were the beneficiaries of considerable government grant funding.  Maine people want assurance that your LLC has a sustainable business plan, including full decommissioning of a potential massive blight, in the event of failure, abandonment, or insolvency. DEP now requires full pre-funding of decommissioning, but the applicant is allowed to estimate the cost, which is always ridiculously low.  Are you willing to bond and guaranty full decommissioning at the actual eventual cost?

4. You have secured leases for +50,000 acres.  So that the public will benefit from disclosure as the public participation process moves forward, can you please tell us now who are the lessors and what are their various subsidiaries and affiliated entities?

5. An aggrieved party in Connecticut has a pending law suit against the Connecticut department that ordered your controversial Power Purchase Agreement (PPA). The State has filed a motion to dismiss. If the motion is denied, the court could take considerable time before we know the outcome of the litigation. Given the tenuous status of the Production Tax Credit, and given the increased viability of large-scale hydro and New York wind to satisfy state mandates, thereby diminishing the likelihood of a lucrative PPA, and given the probability that regional natural gas deficiencies will soon be fixed, what assurances will you give Maine that this project is a viable business concern, discussing each of the above factors.

6. Transmission and generator lead lines for wind projects are expensive. The proposed project is separated from the ISO-New England by a considerable transmission gap, which is exacerbated by the Orrington bottleneck.  Emera Maine and other utilities have devoted considerable resources to maintaining regional reliability at minimal cost to ratepayers. According to an Emera Maine report dated 12-18-13, Emera Maine might be required to purchase that portion of the lead line necessary to connect to ISO-NE, with socialization implications.  Please explain all the implications for ratepayers in the various systems, based on all the possible T&D configurations that might occur relating to this wind project.

7. Last year a representative of your company named Jeff Bishop testified before the Maine legislature on LD 1750, a bill brought by the wind lobby. Mr. Bishop explained

EDP’s support for the bill because it “clarifies that wind developers do not have to prove the energy and emissions benefits of their project…”  He further said “this seems appropriate.”   As Mainers have become increasingly educated on wind energy’s true impacts & benefits, we have come to know that wind energy’s “energy and emissions” benefits are theoretical at best, and in many cases are fictional. Given that we are being asked to absorb massive environmental and economic impacts from this sprawling and costly project, including encroachment on “forever wild” Baxter State Park, will you please be a good neighbor and delineate said benefits for us, subject to expert review and cross examination during the permitting process?

8. The Connecticut Legislature has repeatedly upheld their law essentially forbidding industrial wind energy in the Nutmeg State.  Congratulations to you in winning the still disputed (see #5) competition for Connecticut Renewable PPAs, topping a field of 47 bidders, many of which were in Connecticut. DEEP Commissioner Dan Esty awarded EDP for 250 megawatts of capacity, and a CT solar firm for 20 Megawatts of capacity.  Given that Connecticut lawmakers refuse to site wind complexes in their own state, and given the sacrifices Mainers will be asked to make, would EDP support a Friends of Maine’s Mountains initiative that seeks Connecticut land for the relocation of Maine’s nuclear waste to Connecticut?

9. If you took that question as somewhat facetious, this one is not.  We have had too many bad experiences with wind developers and we do not trust them. How many EDP employees were ever employees of Enron or its affiliates and subsidiaries?  Please list all, and their current positions at EDP.

10. For about a year EDP has stationed a pair of young public relations staffers indowntown Presque Isle.  For several years EDP and the former Horizon have conducted PR activities in the area. Surely your activity is more than buying coffee and donuts for the snowmobile club. Please save Maine taxpayers the expense of Freedom of InformationAccess compliance, and provide for the record all correspondence with public officialsregarding the project.

11. Roughly 10,000 square miles of Northern Maine have been designated as lynx critical habitat by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. What has been done to determine that a sprawling project involving extensive blasting and clear-cutting will not disturb this endangered species and comply with the federal Endangered Species Act?

12. Stakeholders in Aroostook are now grappling with several serious issues in the MEPCO-Emera-NB Power-Van Buren-Houlton-NMISA region. The system here has serious issues, from reliability to potential base load shortages.  We have two biomass plants with 70 megawatts of base load capacity.  Those ostensibly could provide load following to balance the zero capacity generation that you propose, which is unlikely to perform more than 15 minutes per hour on average. Those dispatchable biomass generators with firm capacity will certainly be harmed by grid disruption as a direct result of your project, and they will need to find higher revenues through rates and capacity payments, or they may very well go under, putting hundreds of local people out of work, including forest products professionals who provide some $40 million worth of fuel annually.  Then Aroostook will need to get its base load and load following power elsewhere, perhaps from oil plants in New Brunswick.  In short, irrespective of whether it is useful or necessary, your project could cause calamity.

12A. When you submit your tangible benefits/community benefit package in your application next month, will you provide a true “net” benefits assessment, deducting the negative impacts, including those named above, or will you merely report half the equation, which is to count the money that you sprinkle around the County?

12B. Given the pending negative impacts on system reliability and ratepayers, will you  agree to an additional criterion in your permit process:  a PUC Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity?

Thank you for your apparent willingness to be a good neighbor. Your proposal has lots of people concerned, so your ability to adequately answer our questions here will go a long way in determining that EDP and the project will be good for us.  We look forward to your replies.

You say you love Maine’s mountains? Too bad.

Don’t expect them to be there for you for much longer. Because what’s happening in VT and NH (click on photo below for the gallery) is happening right here in Maine. And thanks to the wonderful photography of Roger Irwin and Steve Wright, you can see what it really requires to erect an industrial complex of giant wind turbines on the top of Maine's mountains. It requires the destruction of Maine’s mountains, FOREVER.

Visit Maine’s mountains very soon, folks, because before long you won’t have the chance --- we keep electing legislators who fast-track the corporate wind barons who are chasing subsidy dollars (see article here), and who gleefully obliterate our most scenic areas, for steep profit. Oh, before you enjoy the photographs, a few VERY uncomfortable facts:

  • Maine’s economy depends on the tourism dollar.
  • Hikers, skier, campers, hunters and leaf-peepers are tourists. Who like wilderness.
  • Turbine electricity generated here goes to Massachusetts and Connecticut.
  • In Maine, turbines do nothing to get us off oil. Our electricity already comes from overwhelmingly clean sources.
  • You thought wind was going to REDUCE your energy bill? Oh dear. We’ll try to let you down gently. You know the transmission lines Maine lawmakers are requiring you to buy, so that Massachusetts and Connecticut can get their “clean” energy and feel good about themselves? Each time you elect these lawmakers, you’re begging them to raise your electric bill.

So Monday’s article in the Portland Press Herald, “Maine businesses can expect electricity shock this winter,” should come as no surprise at all. Neither should “Power bills to rise for CMP customers after decision in controversial rate case,” published on July 31 of this year. This is, after all, what we voted for. Yes, the chickens are coming home to roost, and it’s now quite clear that Augusta has once again gotten us into one fine mess. At our own request. We’d all better take action soon, before it’s too late.

Many thanks to Peak Keepers of Vermont’s Mountains for bringing their fine online brochure to our attention.

CLICK THROUGH THE GALLERY

Appalachian Trail in peril, enviro group warns

Appeal of industrial wind complex launched

(Portland, Maine) Friends of Maine's Mountains (FMM) has appealed the recently-granted permit for a Massachusetts company to build Maine's largest-ever industrial wind complex.

In its written appeal to the Board of Environmental Protection (BEP), FMM asserts that the project will unreasonably degrade the best vistas along 280 miles of the Appalachian Trail that run through Maine.

"Every year people from all over the world walk two thousand miles on the Appalachian Trail pilgrimage, and all along the way they hear how beautiful it is when they reach Maine,” said Chris O’Neil, a spokesperson for FMM. “They will be sorely disappointed, and Maine will be irreparably tarnished, if at every high peak between the Western Mountains and Katahdin they are looking at looming industrial towers as tall as Boston skyscrapers."

FMM also objects that the decommissioning fund necessary to restore the mountains is drastically inadequate. In the appeal and in earlier filings (links below), FMM demonstrated that First Wind woefully underestimated the amount of work required to restore 17 miles of ridge, and grossly overestimated the amount of money that might be recovered from scrap value of old wind turbines. 

"Many people have come to understand that wind power cannot be sustained in Maine, and that these wind operators are going to take the subsidy money and run. When that happens, Maine should not assume all the economic and environmental liability that will come from abandoned turbines."

The permit, granted in September by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) after a two-year fight, added a requirement that the applicant, First Wind, demonstrate proof of project financing before construction begins. 

"FMM's strongly supports the DEP's concern about financial capacity, given the precarious condition of First Wind, especially since this Boston wind developer has never turned a profit, and its financials look worse every quarter. It’s foolish to hand over all our highlands to these people, O’Neil said.

A pending case before the Maine Public Utilities Commission that would bail out First Wind is likely to be hung up in litigation for the foreseeable future, so FMM's appeal asks the BEP to overturn the permit because of the uncertainty.

LINKS

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.

Why are so many Texans writing checks in Maine’s governor race?

Maine has seen this before, and of course the pattern is old hat for Kurt Adams. As the Maine Center for Public Interest reported, industrial wind is always eager to extend its tentacles into Maine’s political establishment by liberally spreading money around.

If you’ve wondered why big industrial wind companies always get their way in Maine’s policy decisions, their inexhaustible checkbook is the first place to start looking.
— Rand Stowell, president, Friend's of Maine's Mountains

Adams, former Maine PUC chairman (appointed by Governor John Baldacci) and now an executive at First Wind, is clearly comfortable with the idea larding the political landscape with thousands of dollars, otherwise he wouldn't have allowed First Wind to recruit him while he was still serving at the Maine PUC. If anything, he's even more enthusiastic now about playing the big money game. Consider that on August 15, 2013, Maine 2nd District Congressman Mike Michaud announced his candidacy for Governor. Yet weeks before, even before that summer began, Adams had already “maxed out” on the Michaud for Maine campaign.

CLICK TO ENLARGE, DOWNLOAD: Kurt Adams has played a key role injecting thousands of dollars from industrial wind speculators into Maine's gubernatorial campaign.

CLICK TO ENLARGE, DOWNLOAD: Kurt Adams has played a key role injecting thousands of dollars from industrial wind speculators into Maine's gubernatorial campaign.

“Maxing out” is slang for donating the most amount of money allowable by law. In fact, almost a year and a half before this November’s general election, Adams donated the maximum $1500 to Michaud’s uncontested primary campaign and another $1500 to his presumed 2014 general election campaign. More curious is the amount of industrial wind money – much of it from far outside Maine -- that has landed in Michaud’s war chest.

Why are big money Texans so interested in Maine?

Campaign contributions do not guarantee political favor; many big donors have historically hedged their bets by donating across party lines to both – or all – candidates in a race. But an investigation into campaign financing documents implies that industrial wind companies clearly have a favorite candidate to be Maine's next Governor, whose ear they dearly hope to have.

For example, employees of Houston-based EDP Renewables hosted a Fort Kent fundraiser for Michaud during last winter’s Can Am event. At least a dozen EDP people with Texas addresses, including top-level officials like the CEO, donated to Michaud.

A search of the Maine Ethics Commission database for campaign finance reporting showed more non-EDP employees, also with Texas addresses, are so interested in Maine’s gubernatorial race that they became political donors, some for the first time ever in Maine. Or even in Texas. The filings indicate that various consultants, lawyers, and other professionals with connections to EDP are now also connected with Maine politics. Even a New York based EDP lobbyist maxed out on Michaud.

Why are we seeing this Lone Star posse riding into Vacationland? Could it be that EDP wants to grease the skids for what would be Maine’s biggest industrial wind facility, at Number Nine Mountain in Aroostook County?

In, 2011 EDP took over what had been Horizon Energy, which had been planning for a couple of years to build at Number Nine Mountain. But transmission lines from Aroostook County go to Canada, not Boston, Providence and Hartford. So the project has languished on the drawing board.

Last year EDP opened a public relations office in Presque Isle. Opponents of wind energy grew wary when EDP began to revive the dormant project amid talk of friendly utility regulators eager to allow massive transmission expansions that would connect "The County" to New England. With the annual expiration of lucrative federal wind tax credits in Washington, most wind developers in the last few years have sprinted to submit applications under Maine’s Expedited Wind Siting law. But not EDP. They still have not filed an application here.  

“Looks to me like they have picked out which horse they want to ride, and now they're waiting for the results of the November election,” said Rand Stowell, president of Friends of Maine's Mountains (FMM).

First Wind a leader in political donations

Despite the fact that First Wind has incurred multi-million dollar losses since it arrived in Maine, no industrial wind company has inspired more anti-wind sentiment in the state than First Wind of Boston. They have spent over half a billion dollars on six wind projects that have the capability to provide only a fraction of one percent of our system’s electricity. All of First Wind’s projects ultimately are entirely paid for by ratepayers and taxpayers.  First Wind’s high-level sponsorship of Maine Public Broadcasting and Maine Audubon have proved controversial. (FMM has often criticized the company for its liberal spending on public relations measures intended to enhance their image.)

Adams, whose First Wind title is Executive Vice President and Chief Development Officer, made news when it came to light that he had taken an equity interest in First Wind while still serving as Chair of the Maine Public Utilities Commission. He has been on the “Host Committee” for at least two Michaud fundraising parties. 

CLICK TO DOWNLOAD: At left is a copy of the November, 2013 event held at the home of auto dealer Adam Lee. Lee has served on Boards and Advisory Boards for many of the organizations most responsible for promoting wind power: Maine Conservation Voters, Natural Resources Council of Maine, Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, Efficiency Maine Trust, and Maine Audubon. Ordinary voters, the "rank and file," normally don't attend parties like this. So if you don't recognize the names of the "hosts," you might be interested to know that many are prominent industrial wind lobbyists. Specifically:

First Wind Top Execs:

  • Kurt Adams
  • Paul Gaynor
  • Matt Kearns
  • Dave Wilby

Verrill Dana Attorney who does the permitting and litigation for First Wind projects:

  • Juliet Browne

CEO of Reed & Reed, only crane company in the region capable of erecting 500’ turbines:

  • Jackson Parker

Owner of Aroostook County’s Underwood Electric, which does work on wind projects:

  • Terry Kiser

CEO of Maine Drillng & Blasting Inc., which blows up Mountains for turbine pads:

  • Bill Purington

CEO at Sargent Corp., which does site work for wind projects:

  • Herb Sargent

Senior Manager and lobbyist at Sargent Corp.:

  • Steve Perry

Former Maine PUC Commissioner and present executive at North American Power:

  • Sharon Reishus

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Overt attempt to influence the governor's race in Maine

CLICK TO ENLARGE, DOWNLOAD: EDP Renewables knows what it wants from "Governor Mike Michaud."

CLICK TO ENLARGE, DOWNLOAD: EDP Renewables knows what it wants from "Governor Mike Michaud."

EDP’s role in the Fort Kent party for Michaud was just as overt as Adams' and First Wind's fierce fundraising for Michaud, as the invitation at left shows. Critics are concerned that the general public may not understand how high the stakes are for industrial wind companies, who are counting on taxpayer and ratepayer subsidies, which are doled out (or not) by Maine's elected and regulatory authorities.

“Most Mainers have no idea how the wind lobby is trying to influence our government,” said Brad Blake of Citizens Task Force on Wind Power. “They do it at every level. From selectmen in poor rural towns to legislators and the governor. Follow the money and it’s obvious why industrial wind has been able to take this state by storm, even writing their own special law essentially guaranteeing them whatever they want.”

A Closer Look at the Wind Money

FMM researched the campaign finance reports for the three gubernatorial candidates. Their last required filing was in late July. Notable in the numbers:

 Contributions from Texas

  • Cutler, 21 donations, $15,300
  • LePage, 10 donations, $7,825
  • Michaud, 69 donations, $22,066

From Houston

  • Cutler, 6 donations, $5,250
  • LePage, 8 donations, $7,625
  • Michaud, 30 donations, $15,750 

From EDP 

  • Cutler, 0 donations
  • LePage, 0 donations
  • Michaud, 16 donations, $3,850

From EDP associated Interests

  • Cutler, 0 donations
  • LePage, 0 donations
  • Michaud, 10 donations, $9,000

From First Wind

  • Cutler, 3 donations, $1650
  • LePage, 0 donations
  • Michaud, 10 donations, $11,100

From First Wind Associated Interests

  • Cutler, 1 donation, $1500
  • LePage, 0 donations
  • Michaud, 11 donations, $4,350

From Patriot Renewables (Cashman)

  • Cutler, 0 donations
  • LePage, 4 donations, $6,000
  • Michaud, 2 donations, $3,000

Wind Money TOTALS So Far

  • Cutler, $3,100
  • LePage, $6,000
  • Michaud, $31,400

BADLY NEEDED: Transparency & press scrutiny

Stowell advised Maine voters to stay aware of political contributions that could influence Maine's gubernatorial election and post-election policy discussions, particularly from the following list of players in Texas:

Texas law firm Locke Lord Bissell & Lidell has a PAC. According to opensecrets.org the PAC has a record of supporting 71% Republicans and 29% Democrats. They never donated to a Maine politician until they sent $1000 to Michaud for Maine. 

Rene Braud, is a former EDP/Horizon biologist now doing bird studies for another wind developer called Pattern Energy. Her bio says she “has provided leadership on numerous committees in the wind industry…including the American Wind Energy Association…” Braud once gave to a Texas congressional candidate, according to opensecrets.org. Her only other political contribution was to Mike Michaud.

Michael Skelly and Jayshree Desai are President and Executive Vice President of Clean Line Energy Partners in Houston. Desai was at Enron before taking the CFO job at Horizon Wind. She led the sale of Horizon to EDP.  Her company profile says she “has a leading role in developing relationships with Clean Line’s future transmission customers, both load serving entities and wind generators.”

Desrai has never donated to a political candidate until this year when she took an interest in the Maine governor’s race.

Skelly is a former congressional candidate from Texas with very little campaign donation history.

FMM made phone calls to Braud, Desrai, and Skelly asking why the Houston energy players are investing in the Maine Governor’s race. Only PR person Sarah Bray from Clean Line Energy returned our calls, saying that “Mr. Skelly didn’t feel that he would be the best one to talk on that topic so he asked me to just kinda pass this time.”

Alvarez and Marsal is a global business consulting firm based in Houston. A&M Managing Director Richard Holt’s company profile lists his areas of expertise. “Energy” is the first listed. Holt maxed out on Michaud in both the primary and general elections. When FMM asked Holt why he supports Michaud, he said, “We have some friends and connections in Maine and Maine needs a calming force.”

It's all there in black and white.

CLICK TO ENLARGE, DOWNLOAD.

CLICK TO ENLARGE, DOWNLOAD.

ABOVE: first two pages for the names, last two pages for the amounts.

Stowell, FMM’s president, said, “When you dig into the public record it’s hard not be cynical. Our mission is educational, so we think Mainers should know about the dominant role that money plays in industrial wind’s political agenda.”

Beyond that direct contribution of money, much of it coming early in the campaign, it’s possible that ample third party spending from the wind lobby will soon flood the state. These could include the “independent expenditure” mailers and commercials. But many “players” are likely to make contributions to candidates, continuing a trend of massive political spending in Maine by industrial wind companies.

Players and payers to watch

Clean Power PAC

The political action committee of the Maine Renewable Energy Association (MREA), which claims to speak for all renewable generation modes, but in fact devotes almost all of its resources to wind. The PAC has not donated directly to any of this year’s gubernatorial candidates, and it only had about $5000 on hand as of July 22. It raised and spent little in 2010, with no contributions to gubernatorial candidates. It annually gives various donations to legislative “leadership” PACs -- mostly Democratic.

Clean Power PAC has traditionally been funded by its parent, MREA and companies like First Wind, Reed & Reed and Cianbro. Three years ago the PAC was deeply involved in the failed attempt by Maine Citizens for Clean Energy PAC to initiate a ballot question that would have increased Maine’s (already highest in the nation) Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). Clean Power PAC has very deep pockets, and therefore is a prime candidate to inject very large amounts of money into the gubernatorial race, especially in its late stages.

See Filings Here for Clean Power PAC

Maine Conservation Voters Action Fund

The umbrella group for most of the name-brand environmental organizations is called Maine Conservation Voters (MCV). This is not a wind advocacy group per se, but as noted above, most of its contributing organizations are the most active promoters of wind power in Maine. MCV’s political arm is this PAC, the MCVAF PAC. They have begun airing TV ads directly advocating for Michaud’s election. The PAC uses the GiveGreen (see below) “bundling” model to make large contributions above the “maxed out” limitations that apply to individual donors.

As of September 4 MCVAF has raised and spent over half a million dollars with at least $400,000 buying media. All of the PAC’s expenditures have been reported as either supporting Michaud or opposing LePage. Their reports make no mention of Cutler. 

See Filings Here for MCVAF PAC

givegreenmaine.com

This is the way MCVAF makes what it calls “pass through” contributions to the Michaud campaign. In May it transferred over $12,000 to Michaud. There are no filings for GiveGreen.

Maine Forward PAC

This is a Democratic Party PAC established to elect Michaud. It does not advocate for wind power per se, but in June it received $50,000 from MCVAF. As of September 5 the PAC had spent over $450,000 either for Michaud or against LePage. The reports do not mention Cutler. See Filings Here for Maine Forward Pac.

Maine Citizens for Clean Energy PAC

This is the PAC formed in 2011 to fund the failed signature gathering effort that would have increased Maine’s RPS. It has been terminated, but it could form again. Interestingly, the MCCE PAC was formed by Abbie Reed of Reed & Reed, along with MREA’s Jeremy Payne, Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM) lobbyist Dylan Vorhees. The group burst onto the scene in the fall of 2011 by quickly raising and spending $100,000 to gather statewide signatures. 

MCCE continued to raise lots of money, much of it from the MREA PAC listed above. According to state filings, MCCE closed up shop owing about $50,000 to three organizations that had been hired to run the aborted campaign: Cliff Ginn’s Opportunity Maine, Environment Maine, and Maine People’s Alliance.  After almost a year of languishing in debt, some of it under dispute, MCCE were partially covered by donations from MREA, MCV, and NRCM. When the PAC terminated, it handed its remaining balance (about $5000) to MREA to fund a wind power public relations effort called “Wind For ME.” See Filings for MCCE here.

League of Conservation Voters Washington DC

This is the national parent of MCV.  It uses the GiveGreen bundling method, and this year funneled a quarter million dollars to MCVAF PAC. There are no filings for LCV.

Nextgen Climate Action PAC

Tom Steyer is a wealthy California activist who has pledged to spend $100 million defeating candidates who are “anti-climate.”  The idea is for Steyer to match donations to the PAC on a 1:1 basis, but so far he has matched on a 10:1 basis.  Gubernatorial races in Maine and six other states have been targeted by his national group based in Washington, DC. As of the June 22 filing the Maine PAC had zero funds on hand, but they reported “in-kind” donations from the national parent group: “335 hours of staff time for meetings and planning related to program in Maine.” See NextGen Filings here.

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In May of 2014, FMM released results of the Criticlal Insights Omnibus Poll. Before learning the pros and cons of industrial wind power, more than 75% of Maine people support it. But after learning the truth about wind power, more than 75% of Mainers oppose it. To further its educational mission and promote transparency in the debate about Maine's energy future, Friends of Maine Mountains has compiled this report so that voters will know who is attempting to influence state policy.

U.S. explains how to protect eagles by killing them

You’re an ordinary American citizen. Kill an eagle, go to jail.

But if you contribute millions to politicians, pocket steep taxpayer subsidies, and raise electricity rates by building industrial wind factories, you don’t “kill” eagles, you “take” them, without penalty. Hard to believe? Check out the governmental double-speak in this 2014 press release from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. According to the service, “‘Take’ means to pursue, shoot, poison, wound, kill, capture, trap, collect, destroy, molest or disturb eagles, their nests or their eggs.”

Wind developers, get in line for your permits!

As we wrote in yesterday’s blog post, the Service wants to increase the length of eagle kill permits to 30 years, from the current five years. (SEPTEMBER 22 is the LAST DAY TO OBJECT ONLINE TO THIS IDIOTIC PROPOSAL.) In its own press release, one of the biggest cheerleaders for higher electric rates and steep government subsidies, North American Windpower, could hardly contain its glee at the prospect of impending eagle slaughters.

Based on the agency’s press release and the fact that the first eagle take permit has been issued, it appears likely that the FWS may more frequently recommend that developers apply for eagle take permits for projects with the potential to disturb eagles or result in eagle fatalities.”

As an American citizen, aren’t you proud of the fine work the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is doing to “administer” the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act?

DIRECT LINK, Associated Press special report: "Wind farms get pass on eagle deaths"

Turbines kill birds



Great news for eagle killers

To help out industrial wind speculators, the US Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to increase the length of eagle kill permits to 30 years, from the current five years. 

DIRECT LINK, Associated Press special report: "Wind farms get pass on eagle deaths"

EMERGENCY: If you disagree, please tell the feds what you think. Public comments are being accepted until September 22 online at THIS LINK.

Or by mail:

 

Public Comments Processing

Docket # FWS-R9-MB-2011-0094

Division of Policy and Directives Management

US Fish and Wildlife Service

4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS 2042-PDM

Arlington, VA  22203