Archive for the ‘DEP’ Category

The lobbyist in the henhouse: Whose interests is Maine’s DEP commissioner serving?

March 13, 2014

The lobbyist in the henhouse: Whose interests is Maine’s DEP commissioner serving?
For two years, public servant Patricia Aho has overseen Maine’s environmental protection. But whom does she really serve? A seven-month investigation by the Telegram points to her former corporate clients. Part 1 of a 3-day series.
By Colin Woodard cwoodard@pressherald.com
Staff Writer
Originally published June 16, 2013

Maine DEP Commissioner Patricia Aho
Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

Flagstaff Lake near Eustis, seen here last month with Bigelow Mountain in the background, experiences dramatic changes in water level in summer, thanks to utility drawdowns at a dam on the eastern side of the lake. Residents say the drawdowns adversely affect the quality of life in and around the lake. The Maine Department of Environmental Protection, led by Commissioner Patricia Aho, missed a filing deadline and deprived the state a say in how the dam is regulated. The DEP’s inaction cleared the way for the issuance of a new federal license that lacked stricter water-level rules and will remain in effect until 2036. Aho’s office called the blown deadline an oversight, but internal documents and department insiders tell a very different story.

A Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram investigation has found Patricia Aho, a former industrial and corporate lobbyist who became commissioner of the state’s Department of Environmental Protection in 2011, has scuttled programs and fought against laws that were opposed by many of her former clients in the chemical, drug, oil, and real estate development industries. Under Aho, the DEP has:
• Frozen the Kid Safe Products Act – a 2008 law to protect fetuses, babies and children from potentially damaging chemicals – by blocking efforts to bring more chemicals under the law’s jurisdiction, chemicals produced by Aho’s former lobbying clients.
• Reduced enforcement actions by 49 percent against large developers and landowners. Aho had unsuccessfully fought to weaken many of the laws at issue as the longtime lobbyist of the Maine Real Estate and Development Association.
• Fought to roll back recycling programs that are strongly opposed by former clients of Aho and a still-active lobbyist, Ann Robinson, the governor’s regulatory reform adviser.
• Oversaw a purge of information from the DEP’s website and a clampdown on its personnel, restricting their ability to communicate relevant information to lawmakers, the public, policy staff and one another. (more…)

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2013 Year-End Update

December 27, 2013

As 2013 draws to a close, we offer the following update on litigation involving Fox Island Wind Neighbors, Maine DEP and Fox Island Wind. In mid July, oral arguments were heard in Maine Superior Court, almost three years after the original lawsuit was filed by the neighbors.

After the appearance in Maine Superior Court, the neighbors offered to participate in mediation to resolve the lawsuit against Maine DEP for failing to enforce against turbine noise violations by the wind turbine operator, Fox Island Wind.

Finally, after considerable time and effort, Maine DEP and Fox Islands Wind rejected our request for transparent, easily-accessible data from the wind turbines.

The litigation is back before Maine Superior Court. We hope for a decision by the Court by spring time.

We have learned wherever wind turbines are located too close to people and private property, there are complaints by neighbors exactly like ours. We have also learned that some communities are willing to stand behind neighbors who are afflicted.

The neighbors are exploring additional legal options to protect property values, quality of life and health from noise impacts of the turbines.

Wishing you a peaceful Holiday Season …

Wind energy foes say Maine lawmakers don’t give them a fair hearing

December 19, 2013

Ain’t it the truth: “Over the last four years you have heard hundreds of hours of testimony in this very room, from outraged, pleading, despairing, discouraged, dejected and depressed citizens from every part of Maine who are exposed, or potentially exposed, to the nightmare of industrial wind power,” the group wrote. “Yet you have done nothing at all to respond to their pleas. You act as though the citizens are your servants, not the other way around.”

Bangor Daily News: Wind energy foes say Maine lawmakers don’t give them a fair hearing

By Mario Moretto, BDN Staff
Posted Dec. 18, 2013, at 4:10 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Addressing sharp criticism that lawmakers are hearing a one-sided, pro-development view of wind energy projects in Maine, Sen. John Cleveland, D-Auburn, co-chairman of the Legislature’s Energy Committee, said anti-wind advocates would have their time to weigh in on wind policy.

Cleveland opened Wednesday’s Energy Committee meeting by addressing the myriad emails and phone calls that committee members had received, bashing them for a perceived bias in scheduling speakers for Wednesday’s work session on renewable energy policy and a handful of wind bills carried over from the last session. (more…)

Public letter regarding Maine Superior Court action and Fox Islands Wind Neighbors

December 11, 2013

(This post originally published April 4th with updates, since) It is now three four years since the three 1.5 megawatt industrial wind turbines changed the lives of nearby Vinalhaven residents. In its 2012 December newsletter, the wind turbine operator Fox Islands Wind and Fox Islands Electric Cooperative prepared ratepayers for an appeal of any decision by Maine Superior Court in the favor of neighbors. Oral arguments took place in Augusta in July 2013.  Following the Court date, the parties agreed to attempt mediation. During mediation, consideration of the case by the Court was suspended. Now that the mediation failed, the Court is taking up the case again.

The final reply brief to the Court details what Fox Islands Wind Neighbors want:

1) That the Maine Department of Environmental Protection be directed … (more…)

The only surprise at yesterday’s oral arguments in Maine Superior Court …

July 16, 2013

August 15 NOTE TO READERS: All parties, the neighbors, Maine DEP/ State, and Fox Island Wind, attended judicial mediation in Portland on August 14. According to the rules established by the mediator, there will be no public discussion of the mediation unless a settlement is reached or the mediation fails. Another mediation session will be scheduled in the near future. What follows was posted on July 16.

The only surprise at yesterday’s oral arguments in Maine Superior Court with neighbors … (more…)

Portland Free Press investigative report discloses background of Vinalhaven neighbors’ legal battle against Maine DEP

July 12, 2013

portland-press-herald_3764710

Maine DEP Commissioner Patricia Aho
Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

NOTE: The lawsuit by neighbors of Vinalhaven wind turbines is moving to oral arguments on July 15 in Kennebec Maine Superior Court. For four years, neighbors have been waging an expensive, protracted struggle around the refusal of DEP to enforce against wind turbine noise violations by the operator, FIW (Fox Islands Wind).

The experience of neighbors squares with  facts disclosed by the investigative report in the Portland Press Herald/ Sunday Telegram/ Kennebec Journal. Read the neighbor’s petition, here:

SUNDAY, JUNE 16, 2013

Portland Press Herald/ Maine Sunday Telegram/ Kennebec Journal
June 16, 2013
The lobbyist in the henhouse: Whose interests is Maine’s DEP commissioner serving?

For two years, public servant Patricia Aho has overseen Maine’s environmental protection. But whom does she really serve? A seven-month investigation by the Telegram points to her former corporate clients. Part 1 of a 3-day series.
By Colin Woodard cwoodard@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

MONDAY: Led by a former chemical industry lobbyist, the Maine DEP has stalled efforts to regulate substances that are potentially harmful to children and to the development of unborn fetuses.
TUESDAY: So-called “product stewardship” regulations – even recycling efforts with industry and bipartisan support – find staunch resistance at the Maine DEP, where a former corporate lobbyist has taken the helm. (more…)

Will Fox Islands Wind do better with compliance noise measuring THIS summer? No, because they are not required to …

July 11, 2013

This post was originally published April 4th.

Will Fox Islands Wind do better with compliance noise measuring THIS summer?

This is taken from the 2012 summer compliance report by Fox Islands Wind, the wind turbine operator on Vinalhaven. During a period of litigation and scrutiny, FIW did not even take care to be sure its noise measurement equipment was recording sound data carefully. It is as though FIW does not even care … AND the state of Maine found no problem with this.

Fox Islands Wind Neighbors respond to DEP, on “Wind Turbine Compliance Report” by FIW

July 10, 2013

For most of the summer of 2012, Fox Islands Wind’s acoustic measuring and recording devices did not work, yet the wind turbine operator decided its report meets the requirements of state law.  Read the neighbors’ response, here:

View this document on Scribd

“The Acentech study (for the wind turbine operator, FIW) provided 10 minutes samples for only six (6) days out of the entire period from May 1, 2012 to August 31, 2012. For those six days, only 24 ten (10) minutes samples are presented representing a total of only three hours or (180) minutes. This represents … 0.135% of the total time. … the Compliance Study has no scientific foundation for its conclusions that the data shows the Fox Island Wind Project to be in compliance.” Rick James, E-Coustic Solutions

Rural citizens lose battle to have say in wind tower rezoning

June 23, 2013
(Note: Wind energy is no panacea or solution to the climate change crisis. It is, instead, a massive distraction from the critical task of reallocating priorities to quickly reduce carbon emissions. Sadly, the Maine legislature seems as transfixed by the gloss of wind energy as deer in headlights.Every legislative sessions since the 2008 Wind Power Act that few legislators read much less understood, Maine citizens have mounted efforts to redress legitimate grievances caused by the rush to cement subsidies for wind power shareholders. Meanwhile, the Maine legislature simply avoids the inconvenient truth that wind is not economic and cannot contribute meaningfully to climate change mitigation strategies.

This session, Vinalhaven wind turbine neighbors supported a bill that would have required Fox Islands Wind turbines to comply with existing state laws, including noise. We hope our efforts will not be brushed aside in Maine Superior Court as they were by legislators who wouldn’t be bothered unless they, too, lived near wind turbines.

Rural citizens lose battle to have say in wind tower rezoning

By:  |June 19, 2013

“I feel like a citizen who is seen to be of less value than my neighbors,” said Karen Bessey Pease, after Maine Senate Democrats Wednesday sidelined an effort to give her and other residents of the state’s most rural areas a say in whether wind towers are built in their communities.

“We just asked to have the same rights to determination of zoning issues in our community as our next-door neighbors have,” said Pease, of Lexington Township. “It’s very unfortunate that the Senate voted the way they did.”

The rural residents had backed a bill, LD 616, that would have established a process to allow their communities and dozens of others in the state’s Unorganized Territory to once again have a say in the rezoning that was required for wind tower construction.

Sign at the intersection of Long Falls Dam and Sandy Stream roads, Highland Plantation

Naomi Schalit: Sign at the intersection of Long Falls Dam and Sandy Stream roads, Highland Plantation (more…)

Wind power’s grip on Augusta weakening

May 22, 2013

Great article by Naomi Schalit and John Christie, The Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting

Wind power’s grip on Augusta weakening
Rural Maine communities protest turbines, which they say deface ‘God’s country,’ but wind developers say they’ve invested too much money to be shut out now.
Portland Press Herald, May 21, 2013

They came from the townships and plantations of Concord, Lexington, Highland, Carrying Place and Pleasant Ridge. They set out for the statehouse in Augusta from the five sparsely populated backcountry communities set between the Kennebec and Carrabassett rivers, from a wooded intervale etched by streams, dappled by lakes and cradled by the hills and mountains of western Maine. (more…)