Industrial wind biting their fingernails in Maine

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Industrial wind speculators, especially First Wind, will be on edge tomorrow because they’ll be trying to get the Board of Environmental Protection (BEP) to reverse the DEP’s denial of the Bowers Wind Project. The BEP holding a public meeting tomorrow, Thursday, May 1, at the Augusta Civic Center, 9:00 AM.

First Wind will be on edge because Maine people are finally catching on: industrial wind is a high-cost, low-benefit waste. More than that, Mainers are also starting to understand how companies like First Wind --- hoping to pocket tax and ratepayer subsidies --- have manipulated the political system, including agencies like the BEP. Resentment about that is starting to filter up from the grassroots through the political food chain, to elected officials and regulators. So this, on the eve of tomorrow’s important meeting, is an excellent point in time to review three outstanding articles by the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting. The articles are an ugly but necessary glimpse at the “inside game” industrial wind developers like First Wind have been playing. Three excerpts and links follow:

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

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

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