PORTLAND, Maine – A total of 39 Unorganized Territory communities from western Maine to Down East have taken back the ability to nix wind power projects they don’t like.
And a fight is still brewing over what could be the 40th, in Milton Township, where developer EverPower has proposed a wind farm.
The moves were a response to the 2008 Maine Wind Energy Act, which gave blanket zoning approval to wind power projects in the Unorganized Territory without review by a regional commission.
The law meant to cut red tape for wind power developers, subjecting projects to state review by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.
Backlash against the loss of local review led to a 2015 law allowing communities in Maine’s Unorganized Territory to petition to restore that zoning review for wind projects, overseen by the Land Use Planning Commission.
Wind advocates argue approval by Maine Department of Environmental Protection regulators and the planning commission is duplicative.
The 2015 bill opened the door to petitions from 42 communities that wanted out of the expedited wind-permitting zones.
Wind power opponents hailed the results Monday, which they said cut about 800,000 acres of expedited wind zones in the Unorganized Territory.
Nearly all of the petitions were granted under the 2015 law, with two deemed invalid and one, in Milton Township, rejected. Residents have appealed that rejection in Oxford County Superior Court and they are due to file briefs in the case by April 4.
Jeremy Payne, executive director of the Maine Renewable Energy Association, said he hopes that communities dissatisfied with the expedited wind permitting act will feel satisfied with the results of the 2015 law and petition process.
“The industry will abide by their wishes and adapt and overcome and look for areas that are both reasonable and predictable for their investments,” Payne said. “We hope this is the last time that we’ll tweak the expedited wind-permitting area.”
The expedited wind-permitting area still includes 130 distinct townships, according to Land Use Planning Commission data. That expedited territory comprises about 2.6 million acres, according to the wind power opposition group Friends of Maine Mountains.
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