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Citizens Task Force on Wind Power raises possible conflict of interest concerns 

The following letter has been sent to the Speaker of the Maine House of Representatives, the Maine Attorney General and the Maine Ethics Commission.

Honorable Robert Nutting,

We must convey to you some you significant concerns raised by a number of Maine citizens who are interested in, or currently are or likely to be affected by the wind power related bills that are scheduled for hearing by the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee on April 25 and 26, 2011.

The concerns are regarding widespread perception that potential conflicts of interest may exist among three members of the Energy, Utilities and Technology committee who will be listening to testimony, discussing and then deciding the fate of wind power related bills – John Hinck, Alex Cornell du Houx and Co-Chairman Stacey Fitts.

The following is the definition of Conflict of Interest from the Maine Government website:

“The Legislative Ethics Law lists several situations involving a conflict of interest. These include situations in which a Legislator or a member of the Legislator’s immediate family has a unique and distinct interest in legislation, or accepts or engages in employment that could impair the Legislator’s judgment. In some cases, a conflict can exist if the employer or client of a Legislator – or another person or organization in close economic association with the Legislator – has a direct financial interest in legislation.”

John Hinck is married to Juliet Browne who is a lawyer and partner at Verill Dana whose main practice deals with the defense of wind power companies .She has been extremely busy in the past few years representing wind developers on the local level, before Maine DEP ,and LURC and defending the companies in numerous appeals and lawsuits . She has represented First Wind, TransCanada and Independence Wind and is quite possibly the wind industry’s leading attorney in Maine.

Alex Cornell du Houx, an avid supporter of wind power, is the outreach coordinator of the Truman National Security Project. This organization states a deep philosophical belief that climate change is a national security threat. On that subject one of their position papers includes the following statement concerning the threat of climate change to our country’s national security, “Even if you do not have complete information, you still need to take action! Waiting for 100% certainty during a crisis can be disastrous.” That sounds awfully like, “Shoot first then ask questions “. A sister organization of the Truman National Security Project is Operation Free, where Mr. Du Houx serves as Campaign Director. Operation Free lists as its first core motivational principal “get America running on clean energy”. In fact, the organization’s logo prominently features industrial wind turbines.

Stacey Fitts, co-chair of the committee, works for Kleinschmidt Associates, an engineering, licensing, environmental service firm offering specialized technical services to the renewable industry. Attached to this email is some information regarding that firm. Kleinschmidt’s wind focus is primarily off -shore wind power, but the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee makes decisions on offshore wind and decisions made for offshore wind will benefit onshore, such as anything that helps along large transmission projects. Co-Chair Fitts was quoted in the February 7, 2011 Sun-Journal as saying “Everyone wants to find the conflict, the snake in the grass. But every legislator in the building is conflicted if you were to take that same standard and apply it to everyone else. It’s the nature of being part-time legislators.”

But what happens when the legislator’s employer actively approves of its employee’s work as a legislator and perhaps encourages such legislative endeavors to exceed simple part-time work? As can be seen on the attached, Kleinschmidt’s website brazenly boasts, “we have been very active in the development of state regulations in Maine where one of Kleinschmidt’s engineers is a member of the Governor’s Ocean Energy Task Force.

Is it not reasonable to express the concern that if, for example, the bill requesting a moratorium would pass, this could affect negatively Juliet Browne and Kleinschmidt on a pecuniary level and therefore could potentially cloud Stacey Fitts and John Hinck‘s judgment on the fate of the moratorium bill?

By contrast the bill requesting a moratorium is asking the politicians to first ask questions then shoot afterwards. Regrettably no legislators asked any questions and did not listen to the few turbines sufferers concerns when LD 2283 was rushed into law back in April of 2008.

I would greatly appreciate your thoughts on that subject. Augusta has suffered from a definite lack of moral compass in the mind of many voters for the past twenty years, resulting in the dramatic political change in the recent election. Especially regarding LD 2283, the so called Expedited Wind Law, we now respectfully are requesting complete transparency, clarity of mind, and an honest, unbiased hearing when reassessment of this bill comes to the committee.

I am aware of the argument that says that the Maine Ethic Laws are exculpatory for both legislators and employees for just about anything except getting caught taking a cash payment in front of a witness or a camera, but the decisions on the potential destruction of 360 miles of Maine wilderness must be made only on merit and on nothing else.

This email was sent to you as hard copy by US postal service as well as to the Maine attorney General and the Maine Ethics commission


Monique Aniel MD
Steve Thurston

Co-chairs of the Citizens Task Force on Wind Power
PO Box 345
Oquossoc, ME 04964

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

The copyright of this article resides with the author or publisher indicated. As part of its noncommercial educational effort to present the environmental, social, scientific, and economic issues of large-scale wind power development to a global audience seeking such information, National Wind Watch endeavors to observe “fair use” as provided for in section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law and similar “fair dealing” provisions of the copyright laws of other nations. Send requests to excerpt, general inquiries, and comments via e-mail.

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