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.