From Friends of Maine Mountains … a legislative update

Augusta Update
April 9, 2013

A Question of Tolerance

Yesterday, FMM President Rand Stowell presented testimony to the Legislature’s Environment & Natural Resources Committee.  He spoke in favor of LD 1028 and LD 1147, which seek to restore the balance between industrial wind development and its visual impact on Maine’s most treasured rural landscapes. Below is the text of a follow-up letter that Rand sent today to Senator Geoffrey Gratwick, who is a member of the Committee. The letter cuts to the essence of FMM’s mission.

Dear Senator Gratwick:

It was a pleasure yesterday to testify before you in the Environment & Natural Resources Committee.  As you will recall, we at Friends of Maine’s Mountains are supportive of the two bills that deal with visual impact for grid scale wind turbines.

At a key moment during almost three hours of public testimony, I think that you seized upon the nugget at the very heart of the conversation: tolerance.

When I completed my testimony you seemed to struggle with the notion of placing restrictions on wind power.  You earnestly asked me (and I paraphrase to the best of my ability) I think of the Eiffel Tower and the radar installation in Cutler. It seems to me a question of aesthetics and necessity. At some point don’t we need to balance our aesthetic tolerance for seeing wind turbines, cell towers, power lines, big box stores, and bottling plants with our need for the conveniences of modern life…our need to get off fossil fuels?

The short answer is a resounding YES.  And that is why FMM supports the proposed legislation that would give greater consideration to visual impact in the wind permitting process. Site location law is indeed a balancing between our need for the benefits of development and our tolerance of development’s impacts.  But while you and I are both eyeing the same prize, we seem to be eyeing it through different lenses.

We probably agree on how tall a turbine is, and how far away it will be visible. Where we apparently disagree is how valuable that turbine is; how much we need it and how much benefit it brings. This is a critical distinction that will directly affect your legislative decisions about how to regulate visual impact.  To wit, if you ascribe high value and high benefit to the turbines, you will have a commensurate high tolerance for its visual impacts. Conversely, if you assign low value and benefit to the turbine, you will be less tolerant of its impacts (visual and otherwise).

As is common in public opinion, and as evidenced by your thoughtful dialogue during the hearing, you appear to value wind power’s benefits at an artificially high level. I too, once believed wind power to be far more valuable than it really is. Those of us yesterday who were advocating for stricter tolerance of visual impact have mostly arrived at this position after a careful accounting of both impacts and benefits.

I am confident that once you similarly analyze the true impacts and benefits of wind power, you will feel comfortable and even compelled to appropriately protect against its impacts. Such an analysis is crucial for any policy maker who is contemplating the balance between regulating commerce and protecting the public interest. We remind you that the cellular towers, radar installations, and transmission lines you mentioned are critically necessary infrastructure, bringing us paramount public benefit. Not so for wind turbines.

Attached to my testimony was a copy of FMM’s 20 Facts About Wind Power.  http://www.friendsofmainesmountains.org/learn/20-facts-about-wind

Please spend a few minutes reviewing that document.  In it you will learn that wind power has been granted broad preferential treatment based upon unrealistic hopes, claims, and expectations. The Facts are not opinions, but are compiled from objective government agencies. The legislation before you will make perfect sense once you know the Facts about wind power’s necessity, sustainability, and usefulness.

As you know, the public generally believes:

– that wind projects provide substantial amounts of “competitive” electricity;

– that dirty coal and oil plants somewhere are being closed as a result;

– and that fossil fuel C02 emissions are materially reduced because of wind power.

In exchange for all that perceived benefit, most of us would be willing to ruin the mountains and pay a little bit more for wind power.  However none of that benefit is real, and the cost is not just “a little bit more,” as you can see in the 20 Facts.

You will recall some discussion during yesterday’s testimony about the subjective aesthetic qualities of turbines. The gentleman from Sargent Corporation who makes his living constructing wind complexes said he likes looking at the turbines near his house.  Many others told you how grossly inharmonious the turbines are in the primitive mountain environment. They all see the same turbines, but through different lenses.

FMM’s mission for three years has been to educate the public (and policymakers) about the true impacts and benefits of grid scale wind power.  As we have succeeded in our work the public’s knowledge has steadily increased as tolerance has decreased. While the wind lobby has met our success with scorn, as you witnessed yesterday, we have Maine’s best interests at heart, and we will not stop protecting Maine’s Quality of Place.

Yes, the federal government has reduced spending on critical infrastructure like bridges and it has reallocated those funds to wind development.  It is natural and even gratifying to see fine Maine companies like Sargent and Reed & Reed adapting to these changing spending patterns. Yes, Maine construction jobs are important to all of us. But please beware would-be economists who come bearing claims of job creation.

Is That a Green Job? Yes.
Very few actual permanent jobs are created by wind complexes: about one job for every 15 turbines.

Yes, a billion dollars has been spent on Maine wind projects. It should be noted for perspective that most of that money was spent on overseas turbine components, and all of that money comes from a combination of your ratepayer pocket and your taxpayer pocket. Of the 45,000 businesses   http://www.census.gov/econ/susb/

that pay high electric bills in Maine, a mere 300 companies have benefitted from this wind power construction spike.

Again, I thank you for your careful consideration of this important legislation as you balance impact and benefit, and I thank you for your public service to our state. It is my hope that the 20 Facts will provide you the appropriate lens through which you view these issues.

Very truly yours,

Rand Stowell

President, Friends of Maine’s Mountains

——–

Once policymakers realize the facts about how unnecessary, ineffective, and unsustainable is grid scale wind power, they will be less tolerant of its impacts, and less inclined to give it statutory and regulatory favor. Click here to read about the two bills that were heard yesterday.

Contact a legislator or two today.  Let them know the Facts http://www.friendsofmainesmountains.org/learn/20-facts-about-wind the facts.

Links for Senators and Representatives.

Please email or call them today. Click here if you need facts.

——

An important piece of legislation has just been published.  It is FMM’s LD 1375, An Act to Enhance Maine’s Economy and Environment.

http://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/bills/getPDF.asppaper=SP0482&item=1&snum=126

It will be scheduled for public hearing in the coming weeks and we will keep you informed. Also, please let us know if you have any noteworthy feedback from legislators.

Thank you.

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