Democratic Gov. Janet Mills has signed an executive order terminating both the Maine Wind Power Advisory Commission and a moratorium on new wind projects.
The moratorium, put in place by former-Gov. Paul LePage, was in place for a little over one year. It survived a lawsuit challenging its constitutionality, but Jeremy Payne, executive director of the Maine Renewable Energy Association, says the tone of LePage's order, plus the threat of permitting delays, had a chilling effect on what he describes as multi-billion dollar industry.
"I think that was what was always so puzzling with the previous governor's position — that in terms of economic development and investment deployment this industry was really looking at Maine to host its investment capital and create jobs," says Payne.
"There's no question companies stopped doing some of their work, and I think where it impacted us even more, but which is harder to quantify, is when some other Southern New England states have issued requests for proposals,” he says. “You know, it's not as though Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island were oblivious to the fact that our former governor was openly hostile to wind development."
In her order, Mills writes that "authorized agencies" such as the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, Maine Land Use Planning Commission, and Maine Public Utilities Commission will resume the vetting process for wind projects.
And she wrote in a statement, that "it's time for Maine to send a positive signal to renewable energy investors and innovators."
"Maine has installed 400 of these towers in what used to be pristine landscapes," says Chris O'Neil with Friends of Maine's Mountains, a group which opposes wind power development, says the state can't accommodate anymore turbines.
O'Neil says he did not agree with the approach that LePage took and resigned his seat on the Governor’s Wind Advisory Commission, but he says at least the questions and concerns raised by the LePage administration served to educate the public about the realities of wind — lessons he's hoping Maine's new governor will take on board.
"One of the things that she needs to learn, obviously, is that we don't need this form of power,” O’Neil says. “We don't want it. And I know her as a very smart, reasonable, problem-solving individual. She needs a little educating and I'm confident she'll come around."
Mills' order also dissolves the Maine Wind Power Advisory Commission, which only began meeting three months before LePage's tenure was due to end.
Updated 5:23 p.m. Feb. 15, 2019 - Originally published 4:32 p.m.