Feb 3, 2010

Wind industry's "thirty pieces of silver" bill at Maine legislature. Listen.

Some here have wondered about what sort of economic benefits Vinalhaven and other Maine towns are gaining from becoming  “host communities” to the University of Maine’s wind turbine research operations. Will they be real or hollow promises?

Tuesday at the Maine Legislature,  there was a work session of the Utilities and Energy Committee on LD 1504, which has been renamed and entirely rewritten  as  “An Act to Provide Predictable Economic Benefits to Maine Communities that Host Wind Power Projects.” (copy not available)

Listen to the Utility & Energy Committee discuss the bill February 2, 2010 with Pete Didisheim of Natural Resources Council of Maine. (15 minute mp3)

This bill is a try at establishing a payout system to compensate Maine host communities for wind extraction-related degradation of their scenic and other natural assets by the sonic and visual pollution that is sometimes a byproduct of contemporary wind turbine technology.  Compensation is also being  considered for the no-go areas around and above wind farms set up for safety and security purposes.

Highlights of the worksession The Utilities and Energy committee’s staff policy analyst Lucia Nixon  said that  the re-written bill  “will specify community benefit agreements that windpower developers be required to have with host communities, and the nature and level of payments under those agreements, provide more specificity in the statutes regarding tangible benefits, and the documentation of those benefits.

Nixon said the stakeholders (who are they?)  were tasked a week ago by the Committee to work together on a new bill version. They met last  Friday, and the Utilities and Energy Committee staffer has been reviewing these stakes’ drafts by email as late as noon Tuesday. (2/2/10)

Pete Didisheim of Natural Resources Council of Maine's Wind Program spoke briefly, but then spent a good bit of time responding to questions from legislators at the work session, as spokesman for the selected group of stakeholders who are hammering out the wording of the bill.  Pete told the committee that they’d come a long way in the last week but were “not quite there yet“.  He said the discussion group expects to be done by Tuesday February 9th and would  deliver something  “that  has the full support of the stakeholders and all the parties, and fully vetted through the agencies, the wind comunity and all the interested parties.”

At present, however, he admitted, there are “still a few issues. So rather than present it in its current form, we’d like  to bring you the final product. when we can walk  through it carefully and  describe exactly what we disagree on.”

 Representative David  Van Wie  had much to say to Pete. But he prefaced it with "I want to throw out a thought that hopefully won't cause people to wet their pants or set you back to zero or whatever."  

What was this thought  of Van Wie's risks ...um.....dampening the wind industry's enthusiasm?

"A wind production tax"  

One of those issues is who levies such a tax? The affected municipality? The state? Federal government?  “There’s quite a bit of concern, as you can imagine,” Pete said,  “about that potentially being siphoned off to…other areas.” 

So have NRCM and other stakeholders been talking to Vinalhaven people?  Monheganites?  Commiserating with the islanders over the loss of serene scenery and seaside silence?    Do the islanders feel “vetted”?

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