No amount of study is going to convince the governor to reverse his strident opposition to wind generation, so why bother?
by the Editorial Board
Portland Press Herald editorial
Last week Gov. LePage created a special commission to study wind power development in Maine and issue a report. This week, he told us what the report is going to say.
Appearing on Maine Public’s “Maine Calling” radio show, LePage said wind power ruins Maine mountains. He called wind one of the most expensive forms of energy, asserted that only a few people make money off wind generation and said it does not provide many long-term jobs.
If that makes you question the legitimacy of this new panel, then get this – the commission could meet in private, and would not be subject to Maine’s open-access laws, meaning we may never know what members discuss, who they speak to or what information they are using to make their determinations.
On the radio, the governor called the panel’s secrecy “fake news.” But there it is, four lines down in his short executive order: “I also order that Pursuant to Title 1, section 402, subsection 2, paragraph F, the meetings of this Review Panel are not ‘public proceedings’ subject to Maine’s Freedom of Access Act.”
None of that engenders much confidence that the commission is on the level, particularly when taken in concert with LePage’s longtime strident opposition to wind power.
In 2013, LePage drove away Norway-based Statoil, which was planning to build a $120 million demonstration wind farm off the Maine coast, investment that instead went to Scotland.
He also has been critical of the Maine Aqua Ventus project, an experimental floating wind farm initiative led by the University of Maine that could make the state a leader in a developing and highly lucrative field.
Last week, he ordered a moratorium prohibiting state agencies from issuing permits “related to wind turbines” in western and coastal Maine, on coastal islands and along “significant avian migratory pathways” until the new commission can issue its findings.
At the same time, he put forward a bill that would have ended the streamlined process for wind permitting that has led to great growth in the industry in Maine.
LePage is taking this route, he said, because wind power has the potential to ruin tourism in the western mountains, a region he recently called, in testimony to Congress, the “mosquito area” that nobody visits – another tip-off that his motives here may not be pure.
The bill to slow the permitting process was rejected by the Legislature, and the moratorium is now the subject of a lawsuit by the Conservation Law Foundation, which argues that it is unconstitutional for a governor’s order to supersede the permitting laws passed by the Legislature.
But LePage said the commission will go forward. Along with the moratorium, it injects uncertainty into the Maine wind market and drives away investment – which appears to have been the goal all along.