Opponents of the Rollins Wind turbine project in Lincoln and adjacent towns have filed another lawsuit, this time alleging that the project’s owners are in violation of their state permit. The citizens group “Friends of Lincoln Lakes” is claiming that First Wind has failed to show adequate financial capacity.
The Friends of Lincoln Lakes filed a so-called “petition for review” with the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, claiming that Boston-based First Wind, “Firstwind.com” and its local subsidiary, Evergreen Wind, have not lived up to one of the conditions of their state environmental permit issued in April of last year–specifically, that the companies have failed to show that they have the financial capacity to complete the $150 million project.
“We are very concerned, essentially, that the town of Lincoln will be stuck with a half-built project when this company runs out of money,” says attorney Lynne Williams, who represents the Friends of Lincoln Lakes.
Williams says the suit also alleges that the Department of Environmental Projection did not adequately scrutinize the financial information submitted in August by First Wind, which included an undated letter and balance sheet.
Williams says the group questions whether those documents, which were reviewed and approved by a staffer at the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, could have been properly analyzed by the DEP staffer.
“I think it’s very clear to us at least that there was not due diligence done on this. I spent over an hour on the phone with an investment manager from Wall Street to help me understand the balance sheet, and I find it really shocking that the DEP has a staff member with no financial training sign off on this,” Williams says.
The complaint also cites a newspaper article from October, in which a First Wind spokesman indicates that the company had not yet arranged financing for the 40-turbine project, which is already under construction.
Williams say adding to the group’s concerns is the fact that First Wind was not able to get the price it wanted for an Initial Public Offering this year, and recently decided to withdraw the IPO, citing unfavorable market conditions. Given all of these developments, Williams says there are serious doubts about the DEP’s decision to sign off on First Wind’s financial filings.
“To my knowledge they have no financial consultants to call on, and this is a very complicated area. To just take an applicant’s word for it when you don’t even know how to read a balance sheet I think is wrong, and this has to stop,” she says.
“Well, we’re disappointed by this latest filing, which we believe is without any merit,” says First Wind spokesman John LaMontagne.
“This project has been throroughly reviewed by a number of different bodies, including the DEP and the town of Lincoln, and those permitting decisions were twice appealed and twice upheld by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court,” LaMontagne says. “So we feel we have what we need to move forward with the construction of the project.”
The Friends of Lincoln Lakes is asking the court to order a suspension of the project’s permit, and to require the company to submit more detailed financial documentation, including information about third-party investors cited in the company’s original filings.
The director of the Bureau of Land and Water Quality at Maine DEP, Andrew Fisk, declined to comment on tape, but did tell MPBN that the Rollins Project was put through the exact same process as other developments of comparable size and complexity.