Karen Pease: Wind industry lobbyist Jeremy Payne mis-represents the truth

One of the ways that the public is misinformed about the facts underlying wind energy is that news media do not give equal access to its critics. This is the case of a recent editorial in the Sun Journal; space afforded the top wind industry lobbyist in Maine, Jeremy Paine. (The editorial was printed in the Sunday edition of the paper. One response, by Karen Pease, was posted on the website.)

The editorial appeared on the day following an important hearing at the Maine Legislature, where a host of bills — supported by wind energy critics — were crammed into one day-long committee meeting near the end of the legislative session.

On Vinalhaven, neighbors of the wind turbines want the same treatment, in terms of noise levels, as the rest of the state. But Fox Islands Wind and its supporters actively lobbied to stop a mere 3 decibel decrease in night-time operation. Add this to the fact that last summer, in 2012, Fox Islands Wind’s acoustic equipment was working properly less than 1 percent of the time to get a sense of what we are enduring.

It’s a tried and true tactic of special interest insiders: make sure that legislators are frazzled to the point of distraction, before examining important legislation that requires focus and concentration. That’s how the 2008 Wind Power Energy Act was passed — with few understanding much less reading the bill that five years later, citizens are attempting to fix.

A little bit of ‘the rest of the story’…
By Karen Pease, verified user — Sun, 05/26/2013 – 11:25

There is much more to this ‘story’ than Mr. Payne says publicly. Few in authority have an in-depth knowledge of the history of ‘wind’ in Maine, or even factual knowledge about the science, economics or negative impacts of industrial-scale wind development. They are lobbied hard by people such as Mr. Payne. People who are paid well by ‘industry’ to sell their product have far more sway –and say—in the decision-making process than do mere citizens – those who have to live with and are directly and indirectly impacted by industrial-scale wind energy projects.

Mr. Payne states: “Through an open and deliberative process — which included six months of public hearings and extensive public documentation of discussion — Maine developed a comprehensive, statewide approach to wind power developments.”

What Mr. Payne DOESN’T say is that the ‘process’ of creating the Expedited Permitting Area was done behind closed doors, with only Baldacci’s Task Force members and the wind industry included. No mere citizen living in the EPA was included in the discussion. And strangely…NO MINUTES WERE TAKEN of the meetings. An “OPEN” process? That doesn’t pass the straight face test. He knows it—but he doesn’t share that tidbit of information.

In fact, in a January 17, 2008 letter (obtained through a FOIA request) from Alec Giffen (Chair of the Wind Task Force) to Karin Tilberg of former Governor Baldacci’s staff, Mr. Giffen writes this, regarding the formation of the Expedited Permitting Area:

“Here is my proposal for how we get from where we are now to a completed report from the Wind Power Task Force and proposed legislation to implement it…. Hold individual meetings with the ENGOs and developers (FPL, Rob Gardiner, UPC, TransCanada, Chip Ahrens, Harley Lee) to go over draft report and, if possible, develop a map of the area where expedited review would take place… Agreement would be that what is said in these meetings is confidential among the parties (ENGOs, us, and the developers)….

“Parties would sign an agreement to support the map publicly and privately and resist efforts to change it in the legislature.”

Yes, the Chairman of the Wind Task Force advocated including wind developers in meetings to design the EPA and he advocated that all who were a party to these meetings be required to sign what were, essentially, ‘gag’ orders!

Clearly, this process was ANYTHING but “open”.

Mr. Payne states: “The process includes extensive siting requirements, third-party review, and opportunities for public engagement and discussion.”

What about the public’s ability to say ‘no’? The formation of the EPA took away the rights of people in the Unorganized Territories to have any input in the rezoning of their communities. That was not only an ‘opportunity’ lost, it was a summary REMOVAL OF A RIGHT which is still enjoyed by more than 99% of Maine citizens. And the ‘third parties’ Mr. Payne speaks of are consultants hired by the wind industry, as well as siting authorities which are bound by the Wind Energy Law, a law which was reviewed (by mandate of the 125th Legislature) by INDEPENDENT consultants in 2011 and found to be deficient or defective in many areas.

Mr. Payne states: “There is no question that some folks don’t like the look of wind turbines and others are annoyed by them.”

This is Mr. Payne’s fall-back position & a remarkable understatement of the true facts.

The truth is, many people are sick. Very sick from being subjected to low & ultra low (infrasound) frequency noise. They aren’t ‘annoyed’. Annoyed people don’t get prescribed sleeping pills or anti-depressants by their doctors. They don’t suffer vertigo or tinnitus or have heart palpitations or panic attacks. They don’t build bedrooms in their basements in an attempt to escape the constant modulating noise & sound pressure. Annoyed people don’t abandon their dream homes…walking out—unable to sell, but unable to stay. Annoyed?

Mr. Payne’s comments are callous & he plays down & minimalizes the very real & serious impacts of wind turbines’ noise emissions. Why shouldn’t he? No one questions his statements. His cursory & dismissive statements are never put to the test by those who have the power to take substantive action to address this very serious health threat. Infrasound is used as a torture technique in some countries. Here in Maine, we’re allowing an industry to knowingly victimize citizens. They aren’t relegated to the class of ‘collateral damage’ for any ‘greater good’. They’ve been sacrificed for profit.

Mr. Payne states: “As Portland attorney and law professor Orland Delogu testified before the Legislature earlier this month, bills introduced this year in Augusta “unfairly single out one industrial activity, wind energy development, and impose a costly and time consuming level of regulatory measures designed to slow and/or kill commercial wind projects in Maine.”

The wind industry has PREFERENTIAL treatment in Maine. Mr. Payne & Mr. Delogu know that. The Wind Energy Act is the proof, as is the EPA. One can’t complain about being ‘singled out’ when that is exactly what the wind industry fought for in 2007 and 2008. They didn’t want to have to go through the same permitting process as all other industry would have to do. They didn’t want to have to apply for zoning changes in rural areas, like a WalMart, a pig farm, a nuclear plant or a commercial saw mill would have to do. No. They insisted that they be FAIRLY ‘singled out’. They made sure that the areas they coveted for development were rezoned ‘industrial’ –but for their industry, only.

Mr. Payne has a job to do. He does it well. But he is a master at telling just part of the story. He talks about how wind will ‘reduce pollution’ & dependence on fossil fuels but he doesn’t prove how it will do so. He assumes people will believe him because wind itself is a non-polluting fuel. He doesn’t mention how much pollution is caused by manufacturing, transportation & construction of wind turbines & their installation.

His standard tag lines have been thrown out by the wind industry since Day One. In fact, less than 2% (two percent) of our electricity is produced by oil. Maine uses oil to heat many of our homes & we use gasoline to run our vehicles. Electricity does not meet those demands. To tie wind in with Maine’s use of fossil fuels is imprudent & misleading.

There are significant problems in the assertion that wind energy will reduce carbon emissions. Many scientists have come out with studies stating just the opposite. Since wind is erratic, intermittent & undependable, back-up generators –often powered by coal or natural gas or another dense, reliable fuel–must be employed for those times when the wind doesn’t blow or it blows too strongly. Back-up generators are placed in ‘spinning reserve’– a less efficient and higher-polluting state– while waiting to be ramped back up during those times when wind generators aren’t producing. In addition, in many places where industrial wind has gotten a stronger foothold, NEW fossil-fuel-based electrical plants are being built specifically to take up the slack. Wind is not as ‘green’ as the wind industry like to tout it as being.

Unfortunately for citizens, most won’t ever hear anything but the sales pitches given by the industry. They will believe what they are told because it sounds believable… and it’s easier to accept what they read than it is to ask hard questions or get involved in a controversial topic. Mr. Payne is doing his job—seeing to it that Maine’s regulatory climate stays as it is…giving the wind industry preferential treatment. He marginalizes ‘opponents’ but he does that for a reason. We worry him because we are successfully exposing the truth. And the truth, when exposed, will quickly topple the house of cards the industry rests on.

Wind projects having a positive impact
Jeremy Payne

Columns & Analysis | Sunday, May 26, 2013
Maine’s wind energy industry is making a positive difference in communities around the state. By supplying clean, renewable energy, wind farms are creating jobs, reducing pollution and improving the economy.

Despite hyperbolic media coverage, the truth of the matter is that Maine has created a thoughtful and thorough approach to hosting wind power.

Through an open and deliberative process — which included six months of public hearings and extensive public documentation of discussion — Maine developed a comprehensive, statewide approach to wind power developments.

The process includes extensive siting requirements, third-party review, and opportunities for public engagement and discussion.

And while opponents resort to name-calling and subjective assessments about the aesthetics of wind turbines, supporters of wind see the benefits of development firsthand in lower taxes, jobs, economic activity, student scholarships and significant investments in Maine.

In Lincoln, a 40-turbine First Wind project has had a tremendously positive benefit on the local economy.

Lincoln Tax Assessor Ruth Birtz, a lifelong resident of the community, described the impact during a recent legislative hearing: “During the construction phase, millions and millions of dollars were poured into the local economy. Contractors hired more workers. Stores and restaurants saw a huge increase in business. Even the local hair salon had to stay open longer hours to meet the demand.”

The good news, however, didn’t end when construction was complete: The Rollins project has provided Lincoln with the funds to make infrastructure improvements that wouldn’t have happened otherwise, and the town was able to lower property taxes.

“Over the last decade, Maine’s thoughtful approach to wind power has resulted in laws and policies that foster responsible project siting and development. Because of these existing regulations, wind power can and does work in Maine,” Birtz said.

The story is similar in Oakfield, where the town took a proactive approach to a proposed wind project that based its review on sound science and balanced the role of the community with the interests of the project developer.

The town held more than 15 public meetings and has worked in partnership with the developer on implementing recommendations to improve the project.

“As a resident of Oakfield whose family has lived there for four generations, it is important to me that the town has economic opportunities to sustain itself and maintain a healthy community,” Taylor Locke, a member of the town’s board of selectmen said.

The Sunrise County Economic Council in Washington County sees investment from wind energy as one way to help create jobs and break the cycle of multi-generational poverty through innovative policies.

One program, in particular, has used Tax Increment Financing in the county’s unorganized territories to invest $666,000 in 22 projects, creating 36 full-time jobs. The investments leveraged more than $3.2 million in additional funds in just one year.

“The wind energy is as essential to Washington County’s economy as logging, fishing, tourism, aquaculture and agriculture,” Harold Clossey, the council’s executive director told lawmakers earlier this month.

And the story is similar from Aroostook County, where the Aroostook Partnership for Progress describes wind energy as a “key component” of a renewable energy strategy for Northern Maine that is creating jobs and supporting economic growth.

There is no question that some folks don’t like the look of wind turbines and others are annoyed by them.

But that is not a good enough reason to take away property owners’ rights to develop their land or to deny Maine the benefits of a growing industry that can reduce our state’s reliance on fossil fuels, cut pollution and reduce overall energy costs over the long-term.

Despite broad public support for wind power, some in Augusta have launched an unprecedented effort to “break wind,” with a consistent barrage of legislation meant to undermine the development of onshore and offshore projects.

As Portland attorney and law professor Orland Delogu testified before the Legislature earlier this month, bills introduced this year in Augusta “unfairly single out one industrial activity, wind energy development, and impose a costly and time consuming level of regulatory measures designed to slow and/or kill commercial wind projects in Maine.”

So far, the Legislature has stepped up its leadership and resisted the overreach and vendetta.

Sound public policy has given wind energy companies the confidence to invest in this state. They see host communities as partners and have made long-term, commitments to share the benefits of wind power.

Maine’s comprehensive policy is working and has created an economic lifeline for communities around the state. Wind power remains a bright spot in this state’s economic and environmental landscape.

Jeremy Payne is executive director of the Maine Renewable Energy Association in Augusta.

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