Senator Peter Edgecomb, Chair
Representative Craig Hickman, Chair
Joint Standing Committee on Agriculture, Conservation & Forestry
My name is Dylan Voorhees and I am the Clean Energy Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine. Thank you for allowing us to present this testimony. Because this bill and LD 828 treat similar issues, we encourage you to consider our testimony on that bill as a compliment to this testimony. Specifically our testimony on LD 828 contains additional background on the Wind Act which is equally relevant to this bill.
NRCM has been an active participant in the development of wind power in Maine, helping craft policy and being involved in the permitting process for many individual projects. The purpose of Maine’s Wind Energy Act was to foster greater wind power in Maine while protecting Maine’s environment and ensuring wind development benefited our economy and local communities. We believe that adjustments to the law may be needed from time to time, but they should advance this balanced purpose.
Section 2 and the first part of Section 3 of the bill would undermine that purpose by allowing the addition of remote places to the expedited wind area, places which could be very far from those previously identified as more suitable to wind development. Current law allows for adding limited areas to the expedited area specifically for the purpose of simplifying the permitting process for projects located on the edge of the expedited area. It therefore applies an important adjacency requirement – LUPC can only add areas to the expedited area in an incremental way. We do not believe there is any justification for this change, and it would unnecessarily put the UT at risk for inappropriate patterns of development.
Current law does not include any provision for removing areas from the expedited area. NRCM supports adding a process to do so, however the method proposed in this bill is far too narrow (just as the method in LD 828 is far too broad.) Instead of eliminating all of the expedited area as in LD 828, this bill would likely not allow any areas to be removed. That is because it gives the landowner veto power over wind power zoning for their land. Any landowner who does not want their land to be developed for wind power will simply not develop their land—they don’t need a process at LUPC to stop that from happening.
However giving a landowner veto-power over how their land is zoned would be completely unprecedented move that would open up a whole new set of controversies. It also does not address the underlying need brought by proponents of LD 828 to give UT residents and others an effective way to propose removing areas from the expedited area.
For these reasons, we urge the committee to reject LD 791.
In the place of LD 791 (and LD 828), we offer the following. Attached to our testimony is language supported by NRCM, Maine Audubon and the Appalachian Mountain Club. It was developed as an amendment to LD 616, sponsored by Rep. Dunphy last session. This bill would create a process for parties to petition LUPC to remove areas. Parties would have to explain why an area should be removed, which essential means justifying why development in that location should have to go through a two-step process beginning with rezoning. LUPC would consider this evidence and make a decision. Local citizens, landowners, developers and other interested parties would all have a chance to weigh in at a hearing.
Stakeholders should note that we have made two modifications of our previous language. First, we have dropped the limitation that areas to be removed need to be adjacent to existing non-expedited areas. Adjacency is an important consideration. Second, we have used more inclusive language with regard to the size of the area that can be petitioned for removal.