So, NRCM is back at the St. Paul Center on a snowy Monday morning, but we’re not here for the Plum Creek hearings today. The Clean Energy Team is here for LURC’s deliberations on the Black Nubble and Kibby wind proposals. While the rest of the office and much of the state has been given a snow day, we, along with about 100 others braved the trip to Augusta.
First on the schedule for the day is the Black Nubble Wind Farm proposal. The commissioners have spent the first 1.5 hours raising their concerns primarily about the scenic impacts of the project and whether or not it fits harmoniously into the larger landscape. They have also raised concerns about whether the company has sufficient financial backing for the project – a surprising focus given that one of the Maine Mountain Power partners is Edison Mission Energy, connected to multi-billion dollar Southern California Edison.
While much of the time was used to discuss concerns, a few commissioners noted that it was important not to dwell on the negative and forget the positive aspects of the proposal. The audience – lawyers, project developers, interveners, and members of the interested public – have no opportunity to comment, which is frustrating. You can see the audience nodding in agreement as their arguments have been raised and whispering to one another, and then in the next breath the opposing side will be smiling. It’s a bit tough to figure out where the Commission stands at this point, although it seems like there are two in support of the project, two against, and the other two are undecided. [The 7th Commissioner, Steve Wight, has recused himself from the deliberations and vote.]
Well, in a disappointing move, the Commission just voted (4-2) after only another ½ hour of discussion to recommend the staff prepare a denial document for the project. I understand the charge of the Commission, but this is still an incredibly disappointing decision for a number of reasons. In this state and the country we are facing an energy crisis, and wind power is one of the best solutions we have. A solution which not only moves us toward energy independence and keeps important dollars in the state, wind power also is an emission-free source of electricity, lest we forget the planetary crisis we are facing today of global warming, or more accurately climate change. Hopefully, the commission will get one out of two right this afternoon…
We arrived back just after lunch and the deliberations on Kibby had already begun. Unlike the Black Nubble deliberations, the Commissioners didn’t focus on scenic impacts. They seemed most concerned about road building issues, in addition to decommissioning requirements. They were less concerned about the scenic impacts because of the lower elevations and differing topography “consisting of more rolling hills;” they stated with a little hesitation that the Kibby project location was not a unique and high value location like Black Nubble. It was clear in the first five minutes that most of the Commissioners were leaning toward approval of the project, and after less than an hour there was a motion to ask the staff to prepare an approval document. The commissioners voted unanimously (7-0) in support.
And that was that. With no opportunity to comment or clarify concerns during the deliberations, we left the building to get home to shovel our driveways before dark.
The Commission missed an important opportunity today to help Maine take two big steps forward toward a clean energy future. We left the meeting pleased by the vote in support of the Kibby project, but deeply troubled by the decision on Black Nubble. NRCM worked extremely hard negotiating the scaled-back Black Nubble compromise. This project had earned unprecedented support – with endorsements from all of the major newspapers in the State, and more than 22 organizations representing tens of thousands of Maine people. NRCM strongly believes that approval of the Black Nibble project would have been the right decision for Maine, and our future.
The wind was blowing hard outside, and there were cross-winds during the meeting. The wind blew one way for Kibby, and another for Black Nubble. We left shaking our heads, troubled by the mixed decisions.
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– Sara Lovitz, NRCM clean energy project outreach coordinator