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Large landowner gives up on challenging “opt-out” petition

Wind opponents: market uncertainty “exactly what we’re trying to achieve”

(Weld, Maine) One of Maine’s largest private land owners has cited the “uncertainty” of wind power development in Maine as one of the primary reasons it has withdrawn its request to challenge Molunkus Township’s petition to remove itself from the state’s “expedited permitting area.”

Attorney Dean Beaupain, representing Lakeville Shores, Inc., notified the Maine Land Use Planning Commission of the change of heart in a letter dated April 19th. Lakeville Shores is owned by H.C. Haynes, Inc.

The development comes just weeks after Jeremy Payne of the Maine Renewable Energy Association said that wind opposition in Maine “has caused some companies to push pause on their development plans and…has caused some companies to re-deploy their capital outside of Maine.”

“Look what twenty-five ordinary Maine citizens were able to accomplish by standing up for their rights,” said Chris O’Neil, director of public affairs for Friends of Maine’s Mountains. “Big wind lobbyists were able to snuff out the rights of Maine citizens in 2008, but the pendulum is now swinging back the other way. The folks in Molunkus have added more uncertainty to the financial prospects of big wind companies in Maine, exactly what we are trying to achieve.”

Twenty-five residents of Molunkus Township were the first to submit an “opt-out” petition to the State of Maine. Land owners like Haynes have the right to contest the petitions, but now that the company has dropped opposition, any future wind development in Molunkus must include citizen input.

For several months, wind opponents have been fanning out across the state, explaining to residents how to gather petition signatures and “opt out” of Maine’s Expedited Permitting Area for Wind Energy, also called the Expedited Area (EA).

Wind projects proposed in these extremely rural areas are currently not required to win local zoning approval. These areas comprise the majority of the state’s land mass, but are home to just one percent of the population. The EA was shrewdly created in a little-understood maneuver of the Maine Legislature, when it unanimously passed the Wind Energy Act in 2008. Lawmakers wanted to make it quicker and easier to build industrial wind turbines in rural Maine. The net result was that a tiny percentage of Maine people were stripped of land use rights and protections that citizens in the rest of the state enjoy. More than 50 Maine towns in other parts of the state have adopted protective wind energy ordinances since 2008, but residents of the “expedited area” lost the ability to do the same, the moment Governor John Baldacci signed the Wind Energy Act into law.

Since January 1st, dozens of opt-out petitions have been turned in to state officials.

O’Neil said the exodus of wind investment capital that Payne bemoaned is a major victory for groups like his, who argue that erecting wind turbines is a wasteful investment of taxpayer and ratepayer money that will hurt Maine’s economy. The state is a well-known vacation destination for skiers, boaters, hunters, hikers, fishing enthusiasts and people seeking solitude, away from more urban and industrialized areas.

“Our strategy is no secret, as demonstrated by the people of Molunkus. We want the shareholders of the huge wind corporations to know about the enormously expensive regulatory and legal hurdles they face as they try to rob Maine of its famous wilderness areas. I hope all the wind company CEOs read that letter from Mr. Baupain and get the message.”

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