Let’s face it, Maine is a poor state. That is a big advantage for some industries, and a big disadvantage for our population.
Most people living here are not expecting to drink from the money stream that flows in and around Washington, D.C., and other power centers, but to exist in a pleasing, relatively unspoiled natural environment. Independence is a valued characteristic in Maine, despite its having been co-opted by politicians who are anything but.
Regardless of whether one believes in the various current iterations of global warming or manmade climate change, consider this; when an industry begins to coalesce via mergers into a giant interest group, and that industry happens to produce and control electricity transmission throughout the region (and beyond), one ought to question the ultimate costs – both fiscal and environmental – versus the purported benefits. It is highly unlikely that what the industry is telling you is the whole story.
The wind industry is now so entangled with the electricity industry that it is impossible to consider it some oddball ponytailed cousin, doing its own thing in the industrial hinterlands. No, unfortunately Iberdrola, Emeara Maine, CMP, First Wind, Patriot Renewables, Independence Wind and Trans Canada are all actors in the same play. It is called “Tell them How Great it Will Be With Cheap, Clean, Green Energy.”
And to entice the audience (you, the citizens of Maine), they need soothingly effective and financially helpful community outreach. In order to help facilitate this, the industry has enlisted the assistance of several Maine environmental organizations, as well as showering some Maine communities with outright cash for pet projects or property tax reduction. Sweet!
The basic nature of organizations such as Maine Audubon, Natural Resources Council of Maine, Maine Nature Conservancy, and the Conservation Law Foundation would seem to be at odds with the “grid-scale” installations of industrial wind and solar (yes, they are pushing that too) in our state. But this is where the vast funding resources come into play, and it is very easy for these groups to turn a blind eye to citizens’ concerns when they have the hundreds of thousands of dollars of donations available from the industry. Apparently there is a view among certain environmental groups that they know better than anyone else how and why to decimate our natural resources in the name of their purported agenda of carbon reduction.
Maine Audubon’s 2014 list of corporate sponsors notes the following among the wind industry and backers/beneficiaries: Eagle donor = $10,000+ fromFirst Wind, Falcon donor =$5,000 from Reed & Reed Inc., Osprey donor = $2,500+ from Central Maine Power Co., Owl donor = $1,000+ from Cianbro and Patriot Renewables. Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine previously listed First Wind as a major corporate sponsor as well, and though the donation amounts are unclear, the established relationship is as clear as First Wind’s ads on SAM’s website.
After the construction of its Stetson Wind project, First Wind donated $100,000 to The Forest Society of Maine to establish the Stetson Mountain Fund, ostensibly to “provide grants to businesses, groups and communities to maintain and enhance outdoor recreation opportunities in the Baskahegan Stream Watershed.” Does it make you wonder that a company that barely produces anything without government subsidies can somehow afford to give away a lot of money to gain local respect and reliance?
A minor side effect?
Here in Maine it seems the height of hypocrisy to support an industry allowed to wreak havoc on wildlife that your organization supposedly considers “important” or “endangered.” As noted by the Washington Examiner in 2012, estimates that in the United States alone, industrial wind turbines are killing 13 to 39 million birds and bats every year ought to make you wonder why any supposed environmental group would align itself with this industry. A recent German study indicates that the death of 250,000 bats per year is due to “interactions with German wind turbines.” With bats in New England already in great danger from the white-nose fungus mortality rates, they hardly need turbine mortality added to their survival risks.
Money makes the blades go round
The funding for this industry is enormous, and a very large part of it comes from programs initiated with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, also known as the trillion-dollar stimulus boondoggle. Taxpayers are funding it and the solons in DC are giving the industries tax breaks on top of that, because they know better than you how to save the environment, and how to spend your money.
One program in particular, the 1603 Grant Program, according to Energy.gov, ”…was created …to support the deployment of renewable energy resources. The 1603 Program offered project developers the option to select a one-time cash payment in lieu of taking the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) or the Production Tax Credit (PTC), for which they would have been otherwise eligible.” In most instances, the one-time cash payout can amount to 30 percent of a project’s total (eligible) cost basis. First Wind alone has 21 projects across 10 states, 17 of which received $778 million in taxpayer money, most of this under the 1603 Grant Program. In Maine, the Stetson Wind project received a 1603 Grant for more than $40 million in 2009, then again in 2010 got another $19 million. The Bull Hill project received a 1603 Grant in 2013 for $21 million.
Now, many of us recognize that the word “million” has lost some of its meaning to politicians in Washington, whether it is dollars or birds and bats. Every subsidy to these industries ought to be eliminated entirely. If they can’t “profitably” exist without them, too bad; they should go back to the drawing board.
Perhaps a million individuals canceling membership to supposed environmental groups might get their attention, and a million voters could oust the senators and their crony facilitators.
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