AUGUSTA – Thirteen bills that would modify Maine’s wind power policies were set aside Thursday in favor of a single, yet-to-be-determined measure that will be considered soon by the Legislature.
The action came as the Legislature’s Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee worked to handle a flood of proposals including a moratorium on new projects, tougher rules to regulate turbine noise, and efforts to protect the property values of homes near wind farms.
Committee members decided to hold on to one bill – a broad measure to amend the Maine Wind Energy Act – and use it as the vehicle to carry ideas from the other bills that win support.
It won’t be known before Tuesday which ideas make the cut. That’s when the committee plans a second work session on the bills.
The measures are backed by opponents of commercial wind energy, many of whom live near operating and proposed wind farms. The proposals represent their best hope this year of slowing the pace and scope of the industry in Maine, and diluting the substance of the Wind Energy Act, which was passed by the Legislature three years ago as a way to speed wind power development in Maine.
The efforts have been strongly opposed by business interests and the administration of Republican Gov. Paul LePage, which appreciates the industry’s contribution to economic development. Supporters have been joined by some environmental groups that favor greater use of renewable energy.
The largest number of scuttled bills dealt with noise and visual issues. Noise tops the list of complaints from residents who live near wind farms.
Outside the legislative process, citizen groups gathered enough signatures last year to petition the Board of Environmental Protection to hold hearings on the state’s existing noise standards under the Site Location Law.
A public hearing set for May 19 was postponed Thursday because the board’s 10 members are responding to a request from LePage to review their eligibility to serve. No new hearing date has been set.
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