November 17, 2011
In October 2009, a handful of citizens from Kingfield, the River Valley, and Vienna came to protest the opening ceremony of the Kibby wind project. As we stood in the cold wind waving our opposition signs, Governor Baldacci, a man who envisioned his legacy as the governor who made Maine a "leader in wind power", was driven by in a limousine with tinted glass. We were not allowed to reach the project site but were told to stay at the edge of the road, kept at bay by a security guard who photographed us and took note of our license plate numbers.
At the end of the reception the media drove by and while we waved our signs harder, hoping for some coverage, the TV crews ignored us. In this Orwellian moment, where a group of concerned citizens was treated as though it did not exist, it became acutely clear that something was very wrong. We knew that citizens had been treated with the same disdain in January at Stetson Mountain, that noise problems with the state’s first turbines in Mars Hill and Freedom were plaguing people, and that many towns were in the cross hairs of the wind developers.
This was a wakeup call. Recognizing the strength from unity that would result from a coordination of the state’s geographically dispersed and relatively new wind opposition groups, we discussed the idea of forming a statewide coalition. While each group was small, by coming together we would hopefully achieve the critical mass to defend ourselves from what was clearly a very well organized and long planned assault.
Relying on our rapidly growing contact lists to expand the discussion, word was spread and we reserved a room at the Augusta Civic Center on Sunday, November 1, 2009. Thirty seven people showed up, all desperate because a nightmare they would have never anticipated was showing up in their communities. That day we created the Citizens’ Task Force on Wind Power, an informal coalition of industrial wind power opponents from all areas of the state. We decided to begin our effort by working on three fronts: LEGISLATIVE (change the law), LEGAL (challenge the permitting process) AND EDUCATION (to counter the propaganda spread by Big Wind).
The Last Two Years
In the ensuing two years of grueling individual and collective effort, we have advanced the conversation across all aspects of wind power – amongst ourselves, in the media, at the regulatory agencies, in the law courts and in Augusta. Turbine noise and its accompanying adverse health effects, dismissed by the industry and the Maine Center for Disease Control as a mere occasional annoyance, became the focal point of several permit appeals at the BEP and the Law Court. Finally, in response to a Citizen Petition organized by the Task Force, the BEP agreed to change the nighttime noise regulations from 45 decibels to 42 decibels. Their decision must receive legislative approval in the upcoming session to become law. 3 decibels might not sound like much, but the importance of the change cannot be overstated. The state’s noise regulations will contain a new special section on turbine noise, and the framework for adjusting the limits as more projects are built will be in place.
On the legislative front, twelve bills were presented in the last session to change the dictatorial climate in which industrial wind is imposed on Maine residents. The bills dealt with scenic considerations, wildlife, property values, setbacks, health effects of noise, transmission and the economics of energy. Hundreds of hours of citizen testimony became part of the public record. The result of this effort became a single bill, LD 1366, also known as the “Fitts Amendment” after Stacy Fitts, co-chair of the Utility, Energy and Technology Committee which heard all of our bills. Representative Fitts, an unabashed wind industry supporter, forced through his amendment in the final hours of committee deliberations. (More on this below).
We must recognize the crucial contribution of Friends of Maine’s Mountains, Inc. without whose generous support neither the Citizen’s Petition nor the Legislative agenda would have been possible.
Finally, many members of the Citizen Task Force on Wind Power, being dedicated and talented writers, have flooded the major newspapers with opinion pieces and letters to the editor for the past two years, and the wind industry has changed its message, like a chameleon, in response to our criticism.
Our collective knowledge base has significantly expanded and we have grown in size and strength. We have begun to raise all-important public awareness of the truth about wind power. We have begun to make a difference and have set in motion future victories.
External Events May Augur Well
During these two years external events have transpired that affect our Maine wind battle. For one, the public is increasingly aware that our national debt is unsustainable which has put many government programs under the magnifying glass, including the subsidies given to wind developers. Federal stimulus funding resulting from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, significant amounts of which buoyed “green” endeavors has been largely spent and is not likely to be replenished. Possible misconduct and failure by companies such as Solyndra have begun to capture national attention and caused greater scrutiny of government programs.
Also in these two years, tremendous new sources of domestic natural gas and oil have been discovered, making wind power even less competitive and weakening the wind industry’s scare tactics about our dangerous dependence on foreign energy. More locally, companies in Quebec and the Maritimes have developed an abundance of hydro-electric power and Maine’s juxtaposition with these provinces may allow access to lower cost electricity.
The media in Maine have begun to embrace some of the facts we have brought and fallacies we have demonstrated, albeit slowly. A stark contrast can be observed between the reporting of two years ago and that of today. Last year a watershed expose of the expedited wind law appeared as a three part series (see right hand column on our home page) in major newspapers, authored by the neutral and highly credentialed Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting. This was not a story conceived in a conference room at a Boston public relations company. The wind industry was likely stunned. In summary, it is a very different environment today than it was two years ago and we now occupy a far greater position as a result of both our efforts and potentially helpful external factors.
THAT WAS THE PAST, THIS IS THE FUTURE
Immediate Goals of the Citizens' Task Force on Wind Power
Through our collective efforts we can slow down and eventually stop the wind industry’s invasion of our state. As a member of the CTFWP you are part of a dedicated group who places a high value on Maine’s “Quality of Place” and feels a duty to protect her scenic resources for the benefit of present and future generations.
Please write to your elected officials at the local, state and national level to express your concern with Maine’s present course. Be ready when the time comes to attend important wind related forums and speak your mind. A comprehensive contact list can be found under the new "Contact Public Officials" tab.
We have expanded the windtaskforce.org website with new tabs covering many wind power issues. The goal of this expansion is to provide a more organized information resource for citizens as well as a place where we can steer government officials and the media. The website has an active blog so check back often for breaking news and current events.
Website membership has grown to over 400 members! That is potentially 400 emails, letters to the editor or signatures on a petition to tell our government both at the federal and state level to slow the needless assault on our landscape. Check the website often for updates on events happening all over the state, and what we can do to make a difference.
"In Wildness is the Preservation of the World" - Henry David Thoreau
Monique Aniel, MD and Steve Thurston, Co-chairsemail: email@example.com
Citizens’ Task Force on Wind Power is a coalition of citizens from around the state drawn together in the common purpose of advocating for responsible, science based, economically and environmentally sound approaches to Maine’s energy policy. We believe conservation and efficiency are the most cost effective, pro-environment, and job-creating methods of achieving this goal. Wind power in Maine's priceless scenic landscape is simply bad public policy.