Jun 26, 2013

Maine Legislature finishes work on windpower reform bills

Here's a summary of the windpower reform  related bills that the Maine legislature considered during the just ending 2012/2013 session
Source  Friends of Maine Mountains

The 126th Legislature cleared away the last of bills that proposed to make changes to Maine's wind power siting law. We're in our sixth year of a law that has been problematic ever since it was enacted, but the Legislature has once again refused to make any meaningful changes to it. Following are a few notes on the results of each of these bills.

LD 616An Act To Amend the Expedited Permitting Area for Wind Energy Development under the Jurisdiction of the Maine Land Use Planning Commission.
STATUS: Committed back to the Joint Standing Committee on Energy, Utilities and Technology.
LD 616 would reform to the 2008 Wind Energy Act. It received a bipartisan majority report from the EUT Committee and passed the House of Representatives with relative ease. However,  the Maine Senate mkajority leadership voted to send it back to the Energy and Untilities Committee, instead of lettering rather than allowing the Senate to vote on the bill, the majority leadership moved to send it back to the EUT Committee. The motion passed on a largely partisan vote with only one Democratic legislator voting to address the issue in this session.

It was a purely strategic move to avoid any chance of making a change to current wind power siting law. Energy Office Director, Patrick Woodcock, said, "It was another tactic to retain the status quo."

When the legislature reconvenes for the second session, it's probable that there will be pressure to kill the bill's provisions or at least make them more wind industry-friendly.

Click here to see breakdowns for the House and Senate votes. Also, please consider thanking those legislators who cast votes in favor of LD 616.

"Rural citizens lose battle to have a say in wind tower rezoning" - Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting

LD 247An Act To Amend the Law Governing Appeals of Final Agency Action on Applications Concerning Wind Energy Development.
STATUS: Dead. Unanimous Ought Not To Pass in EUT Committee.

LD 385An Act To Improve Wind Energy Development Permitting.
STATUS: Passed to be enacted. Not yet signed by the governor as of 6/24/13.

From a practical standpoint, the original version of this bill proposed few changes that would have been noticeable under current patterns of development. The version that passed was amended under the guidance of wind industry representatives and does even less than the original. LD 385 originated with groups advocating wind development including the Natural Resources Council of Maine and Maine Audubon. These groups were among those that crafted the current law that has been so troublesome.

LD 1061An Act To Regulate Meteorological Data-gathering Towers in Maine.
STATUS: Dead. Unanimous 
Ought Not To Pass in EUT Committee.

LD 1147An Act To Protect Maine's Scenic Character.
STATUS: Referred to Joint Standing Committee on Energy, Utilities and Technology.
In an unusual move, the Environment and Natural Resources Committee voted to refer this bill to the EUT Committee after the public hearing had already taken place. This means the EUT Committee never heard the testimony given by supporters of the bill. Several ENR Committee members objected to the Committee majority's action on the grounds that it was unfair to the supporters of the citizens who brought the bill to the Legislature. The bill will be passed into the next session.

LD 1323An Act Regarding Wind Power Siting in the Unorganized Territory.
STATUS: Referred to Joint Standing Committee on Energy, Utilities and Technology.
This bill followed the same path as LD 1147 above.

LD 1325Resolve, To Place a Temporary Suspension on Permitting of Certain Expedited Grid-scale Wind Energy Developments.
STATUS: Dead. Divided report from EUT Committee. Killed by Senate and House votes.

LD 1375An Act To Enhance Maine's Economy and Environment.
STATUS: Dead. Unanimous 
Ought Not To Pass in EUT Committee.

LD 1434An Act To Clarify the Laws Governing Noise from Wind Turbines
STATUS: Carried over to next session.

The parties involved in this bill will be attempting to work out a solution before the next session in order to eliminate the need for the bill.

LD 1471An Act Authorizing the Board of Environmental Protection To Modify a License for a Wind Energy Development.
STATUS: Dead. Unanimous 
Ought Not To Pass in EUT Committee.

Thank you.

Jun 15, 2013

CLF got GAC to Drop Acid back in 2002

The Coastal Waters Project and the Conservation Law Foundation both took on General Alum  when evidence of at least three serious pollution problems emerged.  Only one was resolved. The failure to resolve the other two warrants an effort to make state and federal permits for GAC's industrial expansion plan contingent on  dealing with them, by GAC creating and implementing a shoreline remediation plan and an intertidal flat remediation plan to end those two pollution sources.

Background  the GAC Chemical plant on Kidder Point (photo) in Stockton Harbor has badly polluted shoreline conditions. Read history of industry on Kidder Point 

The GAC Chemical facility  is only the latest in a series of chemical & fertilizer companies that have operated there since the early 20th century. See 1998 GAC letter to DEP Bangor and its attached chart of results of aerial reconnaisance of site 1937 to 1990

CLF's 2001-2002  sues GAC Chemical. In 2001, CLF's then-attorney Roger Fleming reviewed the outfall records of GAC Chemical and discovered persistent ongoing violations of the company's discharge permit, specifically unlawfully low pH of outfall effluent
See a 3/27/98 Notice of Violation  sent to GAC by DEP, and the company's 4/20/98 Response to DEP

. On October 3, 2001 CLF filed a Notice of Intent to Sue under the Clean Water Act. On February 11, 2002, CLF filed this complaint.  Eight months later, on October 9, 2002a settlement was reached.   See: CLF Reports:Stopping General Alum & Chemical Corporation's pollution of Stockton Harbor   

The photograph in the above linked Stopping General Alum & Chemical page illustrates graphically three of the ongoing pollution problems on the GAC Chemical shore  The silvery mud in the foreground is acidic bauxite tailings that have eroded into the intertidal flat from a predecessor company's shorefront dump since at least 1957. Midground: see an eroding shoreline waste dump whence the bauxite came. The abandoned tank in the background has supplied its own multicolored wastes into another part of the same cove's beach and intertidal flat.  

Photos from March 2013 site visit (unless otherwise noted)
Shoreline # 1  Eroding sites March 2013.  Here and here  and hereDumped ceramic grinding parts (1) Here (May 2012)
Shoreline # 2  Shorefront landfills March 2013.  Here and Here and Here  Dumped ceramic stirring parts (2) Here

Abandoned structures 
Old import pipeline from offshore dock to now demolished plant Here and here
Abandoned pumphouse with two outfalls inside. Here and  here (closeup) *** 1998 Aerial of dischargefrom"abandoned" pumphouse
Abandoned closed outfall catch basin Here  ** April 8,1998 BDN story on waste buildup in basin that we ID'd and forced cleanup of.
Abandoned building w/ abandoned tank Here
Tainted flats below abandoned building & tank  From land *** from land (2) *** From air  from air (2) *** from air (3)

Agency Actions to date
On  April 16, 2004  two DEP marine ecologists sampled the mud.  Low levels of biodiversity was found. Ending erosion  of wastes by trimming bluff back and sodding it over was suggested but not carried out.  Report by John Sowles *** Report by Lee Doggett

Meeting with the Company
Last year  we took Colter and his CES environmental consultant on two walka along the worst part of his company's shores.  There, exposed strata of acidic  alum production wastes dumped along the shore in the 1960s and 70s  have eroded into the harbor, adding a silvery color to the mud in the clamflats, Nearby, red and black leacheate rises up through the gravelly beach and into the mud, with the apparently culpable derelict building & tank rising above it

We urged Colter to start by removing or cutting back and resodding the waste piles that are leaking onto the harbor's shores and adjacent clamflats. Then, we suggested, at least an acre of contaminated mudflat should be dredged up or dug up and landfilled, possibly onsite in the company's existing landfill.

Mr. Colter was enthusiastic at first: He wrote after GAC's enviro consultant CES gave him an update:
"I recently received options from CES for improvements to the shoreline to address erosion concerns.  We are working through the cost options to decide what will be best.  From a budgetary perspective, this will have to be a 2013 project.  I am pleased with what CES has proposed.  Once we have the cost pieces pulled together we will approach the DEP to determine the steps to move forward.   I will keep you posted." 
That was 7 months ago. No postings from Colter yet.

PROPOSED ACTION  Leverage mitigation as quid pro quo for company expansion plan.
Last September GAC  applied to the Searsport Planning Board to add an additional chemical plant to their property. The new facility would create "plastic pigments"  and would be a joint venture with Mexican chemical firm Dalegip America. See media coverage  here and here

We would like the new facility's state  or federal permits to be conditional on GAC creating and implementing a shoreline remediation plan and an intertidal flat remediation plan.  The eroding shore bluff, bauxited clam flat, and leacheate-drenched beach areas are all unlicensed discharge violations of the Clean Water Act.

Whether or not cleaup is tied to their expansion plans, if CLF did a site walk along the intertidal shore first without, then with, GAC's David Colter, you may be able to  convince him that remediating his site's historic shore waste problems -as responsible party- needs to be a top priority.

Colter has run a tight ship.  MDEP records show that the GAC Chemical facility has greatly improved its pollution controls since the 1990s. The company is locally well liked; it has a large local payroll and contributes to civic betterment projects.  Thus it is a disappointment that Colter seems to have a problem keeping his promise to deal with the facility's shoreline waste dumps.  CLF could help nudge the company along in the right direction

Jun 14, 2013

Is Sears Island threatened by bond bills?

Sears Island-threatening bond bills? 

Take a look at the bonds marked with a little orange square  on pages pages 3, 5 and 7 from the Maine legislature's 2013 transportation bond package.  Taken from state's full bond list

They are:
* LD 942 ($9.5 million), "...funds for industrial rail facility..funds for ports and marine facilities."

LD 1052 ($20 million),  "...reconfigure, repair, maintain and improve the intermodal structure of the state, including trail, truck, marine and air transportation modes..."

LD 1095 ($19 million) ,  "..funds for facilities or equipment related to ports, harbors, marine transportation...."

LD 1492 ($9 million)   "...Funds for public transportation facilities and equipment upgrades, including but not limited to fixed route bus service and ferries servicing islands..."

It may be that these transpo bonds still need to get another vote from the appropriations committee, but it will likely be the whole bond pack with the port bond cash in it. 

The bonds don't specifically say "Sears Island" but we know it is one of the chief targets of money for  "ports and marine facilities" or "marine transportation faclities" that
 the bonds would pay for.

Maine Legislature passes GMO labeling bill LD 718

earlier this week...
LD 718—"An Act to Protect Maine Food Consumers' Right to Know about Genetically Engineered Food and Seed Stock"—passed with flying colors in the Maine House on Tuesday, and the Maine Senate yesterday!

The bill is now bound for Governor Paul LePage's desk with momentum behind it. Thank you for making your voice heard; your signature was crucial to the GMO labeling bill's passage in the Maine Legislature. Stay tuned for new actions you can take to encourage Governor LePage to sign the GMO labeling bill into law so that Maine people can know what they're eating.

Jun 5, 2013

Federal & State Ocean Planners held public meeting at Rockland Library June 4th: AUDIO recordings

On June 4, 2013, the Rockland Library hosted a public meeting  by representatives of the Northeast Regional Ocean Council.  NROC was created  by the federal Ocean Policy Task Force  set up to implement  Executive Order 13547 "Stewardship of the Ocean, Our Coasts, and the Great Lakes".  The Rockland meeting was the last in a series held around New England.
Listen below to the presentations that were given.(mp3s) 
The Task Force's goal: developing a national  policy that stimulates: 
"Effective Decision Making", "Healthy Ocean and Coastal Ecosystems:, and   "Compatibility Among Past, Current and Future Ocean Uses"  Those goals are detailed in their 3 page draft ocean planning goals paper (pdf) Read more about the Ocean Policy Task Force and its purpose in hosting this event, below the recordings. 

1. Introduction by Kathleen Leyden  3min38sec 
2. Meeting attendees identified. 8min 47sec
3. Meeting facilitator intro. 2min 12sec
4. Betsy Nicholson, NOAA. 13min38sec
5. Betsy Nicholson Q&A. 5min 31sec
6. John Weber, NROC. Part 1. 9min 12sec
7. John Weber, NROC Part 2. 9min 26sec  
8. Betsy Nicholson NOAA 9min 57sec
9 Betsy Nicholson NOAA. 3min 46sec 
10. Closing remarks. 3min 38sec

Background: On July 19, 2010 President Obama signed  Executive Order 13547 --Stewardship of the Ocean, Our Coasts, and the Great Lakes.  The executive order implements the recommendations of the Ocean Policy Task Force (pdf) The task force  is "composed of  24 senior-level officials from executive departments, agencies, and offices across the Federal government and led by the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ)."

EO 13547 makes it "the policy of the United States" for ocean related agencies to meet ten standards in their permit and license decision making. Each agency must 
  • (i) protect, maintain, and restore the health and biological diversity of ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes ecosystems and resources;
  • (ii) improve the resiliency of ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes ecosystems, communities, and economies;
  • (iii) bolster the conservation and sustainable uses of land in ways that will improve the health of ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes ecosystems;
  • (iv) use the best available science and knowledge to inform decisions affecting the ocean, our coasts, and the Great Lakes, and enhance humanity's capacity to understand, respond, and adapt to a changing global environment;
  • (v) support sustainable, safe, secure, and productive access to, and uses of the ocean, our coasts, and the Great Lakes;
  • (vi) respect and preserve our Nation's maritime heritage, including our social, cultural, recreational, and historical values;
  • (vii) exercise rights and jurisdiction and perform duties in accordance with applicable international law, including respect for and preservation of navigational rights and freedoms, which are essential for the global economy and international peace and security;
  • (viii) increase scientific understanding of ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes ecosystems as part of the global interconnected systems of air, land, ice, and water, including their relationships to humans and their activities;
  • (ix) improve our understanding and awareness of changing environmental conditions, trends, and their causes, and of human activities taking place in ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes waters; and
  • (x) foster a public understanding of the value of the ocean, our coasts, and the Great Lakes to build a foundation for improved stewardship.
(More information coming.)