AUGUSTA – Residents of unorganized territories jumped a hurdle last week when Governor Paul LePage signed LD 828 into law. The bill, sponsored by Representative Larry Dunphy, allows for residents in Maine’s most rural territories the right to petition the state’s Land Use Planning Commission to remove their townships and plantations from the “expedited wind zone.”
The zone was formulated with the 2008 Wind Energy Act and covered large areas of Maine’s unorganized territories. The Wind Energy Act removed the need for wind farms to apply for rezoning in these areas and eliminated input from residents regarding modifications to territory zoning. Without the need for rezoning and the need for input from residents, the process for wind companies to erect wind towers in unorganized territories was expedited.
The bill does not automatically eliminate the expedited wind zone but it does allow residents within those zones to petition the state’s Land Use Planning Commission to remove their townships and plantations from the zone. If, after petitioning, LUPC removes a territory from the expedited wind zone then a wind company would have to go through the process of seeking rezoning in order to build wind farms. This process includes seeking input from residents of the townships and plantations affected.
The bill reads in part: “The Legislature finds that it is in the public interest to reduce the potential for controversy regarding siting of grid-scale wind energy development by expediting development in places where it is most compatible with existing patterns of development and resource values when considered broadly at the landscape level.”
Currently, there are two wind projects under development in western Maine. Iberdrola Renewables is considering a project in Lexington and Highland. FirstWind is developing a project in Bingham. A 12-turbine wind farm is being constructed on Saddleback Ridge in Carthage. Roxbury and Byron are home to the Independence Energy 22-turbine project and TransCanada has more than 50 turbines in northern Franklin County.
The entire bill can be read online at www.mainelegislature.org.