Testimony at the Maine Legislature
Comments by Sue Jones, NRCM Energy Project Director
Thank you for the opportunity to present comments in favor of LD 1929 on behalf of the Natural Resources Council of Maine (Council). Adoption of this bill would jumpstart the development of new renewable energy projects in Maine, particularly wind projects. The Council strongly supports development of new wind power, suitably sited, in Maine, and urges the State to commit to generating at least 5% of Maine’s electricity by wind power by 2010, three years earlier than this proposed bill.
1. Adoption of this bill will promote clean renewable power, especially wind, which will reduce air pollution, health and environmental impacts of Maine’s electricity use.
From the Council’s perspective, it is critical to evaluate renewable power projects, and especially wind power projects, within the larger context of our existing system of energy generation. We currently get our electricity from the New England “mix” that is primarily fueled by coal, oil, natural gas and nuclear sources. These sources create smog that harms our health, acid rain that damages our forests, nuclear waste that remains hazardous for thousands of years, and global warming that is a threat to the whole world.
It is helpful to remember the real impacts of using our traditional forms of fossil-based power. Let’s consider the impacts of the Brayton Point Power Plant located in Somerset, Massachusetts. It burns 8,000 tons of coal every day and provides electricity to Maine, and the rest of the New England grid. The Harvard School of Public Health has estimated that this one plant is responsible for 100 premature deaths, 30,000 asthma attacks, and 1,100 emergency room visits each year. It also estimates that those living within 30 miles of the plant face a per-capita mortality risk that is nearly three times greater than those living further out.
Another example to look at is the Salem Harbor coal-fired Power Plant located in Salem, Massachusetts. It receives most of its coal from Colombia and Venezuela, including from one of the largest open pit mines in the world — a mine that has bulldozed entire villages that were in the way of its operations. Fossil-fuel power comes at tremendous costs to the communities that mine and develop it, as well as to the communities where it is ultimately burned.
In our view, Maine’s energy policy should include the following elements:
First, we need to use energy more efficiently;
Second, we need to put modern pollution controls on old coal- and oil-fired power plants; and,
Third, we need to develop clean renewable energy sources.
This bill speaks to the third bullet – a sustainable electricity supply, to enhance the State’s energy independence, economy and environment.
2. Adoption of this bill will increase jobs and economic development in Maine.
There are numerous examples of how increasing renewable power generation within the State can increase local jobs and economic development.
Wind is the fastest growing renewable energy source in the world, and Maine deserves to have a piece of the action. For example, the Mars Hill Wind Project is expected to create hundreds of jobs, and millions in local property taxes, State income taxes and sales taxes. In its construction phase alone, a project of this size would create an overall economic sales benefit of over $66 million to the Northern Maine economy, and over $1 million to the State coffers in income and sales tax revenues. In addition, it would yield nearly $5 million in annual sales benefit to the economy, and nearly $140,000 per year in income and sales tax revenues to the State.
Closer to home, wind power can also provide important economic benefits to landowners who would lease property for the siting of turbines. Other communities – in addition to Mars Hill — could experience similar benefits as additional wind power projects are pursued in Maine. The experiences of Pennsylvania and Western New York State, where many wind power projects have become operational, show that clean power can generate valued jobs and economic development in rural communities.
Other types of renewable power projects would also benefit the Maine economy; for example, at least three solar manufacturers in Maine will soon be poised to release their products into the Maine and American markets.
The Council suggests one edit to the Bill, as written:
A. Regarding the Maine Renewable Power Fund – We suggest that this Fund be overseen and managed with the PUC by an Advisory Committee, and that disbursement of funds be done through an auction process as is done in California with its new renewable power projects. This is the most cost-effective way to disburse funding, since only those amounts of funding that are absolutely needed, and based on detailed demonstrations of need, are granted.
I have one last point that emphasizes a point made in Beth Nagusky’s handout entitled, “Economic Impacts of a 50 MW Maine Wind Farm” that was prepared by the State Planning Office. Adopting this bill is a lucrative opportunity for economic development, especially in rural and Northern parts of Maine. That document clarifies that the economic benefits of wind development are for the taking. If upcoming wind projects – such as Mars Hill – do not happen, then estimated multi million-dollar economic benefits to the State of Maine and its residents are losses from what might have been. Given these economic times in Maine, this State should ensure that opportunities like those proposed in this bill are adopted, maximized and successful.
The Council urges you to pass LD 1929.