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LePage Proposal Would Limit Turbine Permitting Options

Toby Talbot
AP Photo
Wind turbines in Sheffield, Vt

Governor Paul LePage is proposing to significantly reduce the area in which wind-turbine projects can get a streamlined permit review. Maine lawmakers, residents, businesses and environmental groups are divided on the issue.

Depending on your point of view, the turbine farms that have been developed in the state's windiest areas over the last ten years are either a boon to the economy or a blight on the landscape.

Republican Senator Paul Davis of Sangerville says that with developers eyeing new wind development in the Moosehead Lake region, he's worried.

"Go up on Blair Hill in Greenville, look across that beautiful lake, at towers flashing red lights all night,” says Davis. “Now just think about that."

The governor's proposal would limit wind permitting options in tens of thousands of acres of Maine lands, allowing expedited permitting only in specific unorganized townships, mostly in eastern Aroostook County. And it would require special visual impact statements for wind projects located within 70 miles of significant scenic resources, such as Mt. Katahdin or the Appalachian Trail. Current rules require those assessments only within 8 miles of those scenic resources.

Republican Representative Jeffrey Pierce of Dresden told members of the Legislature's Energy, Utilities and Technology that the measure's "viewshed" limitations could later be applied to other valuable woodland activities in Maine, such as logging.

“In our town it's 75 feet, not 75 miles,” says Pierce. “We say Maine's open for business. We're not open for business. This is just another hostile proposal to deter capital from coming to Maine.”

The committee is likely to vote on the proposal next week. Meanwhile, lawsuits are pending which challenge a moratorium LePage has imposed on new wind projects in the state – a moratorium he says should stay in effect until new legislation is passed.

A Columbia University graduate, Fred began his journalism career as a print reporter in Vermont, then came to Maine Public in 2001 as its political reporter, as well as serving as a host for a variety of Maine Public Radio and Maine Public Television programs. Fred later went on to become news director for New England Public Radio in Western Massachusetts and worked as a freelancer for National Public Radio and a number of regional public radio stations, including WBUR in Boston and NHPR in New Hampshire.