The Maine Legislature passed a bill Monday that would give residents of the state’s vast Unorganized Territory a chance – one chance – to have their communities excluded from the area of Maine designated for large wind power projects.
The House and Senate each unanimously enacted the proposal to give those residents the right to petition the Maine Land Use Planning Commission to pull out of what’s known as the expedited wind permitting area, a region designated in Maine’s 2007 Wind Energy Act.
The heavily lobbied bill pitted wind power advocates against landowners in the Unorganized Territory. Landowners argued that they have had no voice in the siting of large projects since passage of the 2007 law. Opponents of the bill countered that the proposal would give a handful of landowners veto power over projects.
The Unorganized Territory is that part of Maine which has no local, incorporated municipal government. According to the state’s website, it consists of more than 400 townships and many coastal islands that do not lie within municipal bounds. Its land area is slightly more than half the area of the entire state, the website says.
Despite the differences over the bill, stakeholders agreed on a compromise that would allow registered voters in any township, plantation or municipality in the expedited wind permit area to petition the state to be removed from the permit area. Such petitions would have to be filed by June 30, 2016, and include a review and public hearing process by the Land Use Planning Commission.
According to the bill, the commission would have to determine that removal from the permit area “will not have an unreasonable adverse effect on the State’s ability to meet its goals for wind energy development.”
Under the 2007 law, organized municipalities can pass ordinances to control wind power projects, but the law does not give the same voice to residents in townships without organized government.
The proposal now goes to Gov. Paul LePage, who has 10 days, not including Sunday, to sign the bill, veto it or allow it to become law without his signature.