Commissioners support Milton Township wind farm proposal

Commissioners support Milton Township wind farm proposal

Oxford Hills | Thursday, June 26, 2016 at 8:52 pm

PARIS — There appeared to be multiple controversies on simmer at the same time regarding a possible wind power project in Milton Township that was discussed at the monthly meeting of the Oxford County Commissioners.

Milton is in the county's unorganized territory, so it has no local government. Its citizens must bring their issues to the county commissioners for a hearing.

Earlier this year EverPower, a Pittsburgh company, began exploring the possibility of installing a wind power electrical generation site in Milton Township. Maine state law encourages the development of wind power. Since Milton is an unorganized territory, the Maine Land Use Planning Commission has pre-provided a broad scale pre-zoning of the state's unorganized territories, determining that wind power is an appropriate use within these territories with appropriate permitting.

The LUPC further determined that within the unorganized territory, the permitting may be conducted under a so-called "expedited" process. A full-scale and lengthy rezoning process must include an extensive and separate permitting process with public hearings by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

The Maine Legislature last year passed a bill that allowed registered voters in unorganized territories to challenge the expedited track of wind power project permitting by circulating a petition. If 10 percent of the territory's voters signed a petition asking for a full permitting review, it becomes the responsibility of the LUPC to request information and conduct hearings on the individual project.

Milton Township returned such a petition to the LUPC. Although it contained only 17 signatures, it was more than twice the number needed to power up the LUPC "Substantive Review" mechanism. 

After receipt of the petition, the LUPC then seeks input from any citizen, groups of citizens, on up the scale to local governing bodies, to submit comments on the proposed wind generation project. In this case, the LUPC determined input regarding the EverPower proposal in Milton must be received in Augusta by a deadline of June 29.

As part of the review process, the LUPC sent the Oxford County commissioners a packet of documents requesting information on the Milton area, including scenic resources, recreational uses and resources, community character, economic development, residential uses and public infrastructure.

The commissioners on Tuesday listened to testimony from Sara Vanderwood of MaineStreet Solutions; Gordy Smith, an attorney from Verrill Dana, and Richard Halacy, a Milton resident, all of whom support the EverPower proposal, versus skeptical residents of abutting the town of Woodstock, Ed Rosenberg and Peter Fetchko.

The main controversy centered on the request to the commissioners from Vanderwood and Smith that the expedited permitting process should be retained, versus the appeal from Rosenberg and Smith that Milton should be removed from the expedited area.

Another controversy focused on transparency and open communication. Rosenberg and Fetchko complained that EverPower had not communicated with municipal governments in the four abutting towns of Bethel, Peru, Rumford and Woodstock about the wind power project being considered in neighboring Milton.

A telephone check with town government offices in each of these municipalities on Friday returned responses that none of the four town governments had received any contact from EverPower about the Milton project proposal. Woodstock Town Manager Vern Maxfield responded, "Absolutely not," when asked the question. EverPower has only directly communicated its intentions with the Oxford County Commission, in its de facto role as the governing body for the unincorporated community of Milton Township.

After nearly an hour of discussion, Oxford County Commissioner Steven Merrill said, "I think from the point of view from the Land Use Planning Commission's request, I would make a motion that we respond to their request and give them the input they asked for by checking this box here saying, 'After review of the petition and consideration of the substantive review, we have: No information on the specified area.'"

Commission Chairman David Duguay commented, "No information regarding, basically, what they're looking for."

"Right," Merrill said. "So that's part one."

All three commissioners voted to approve Merrill's first motion.

"On part two," Merrill continued, "which is EverPower's request for support for their position, to be within the expedited process ..."

Merrill briefly questioned Halacy about a meeting he had hosted for EverPower and Milton residents to discuss the wind generation project.

"I guess, Mr. Chairman," Merrill continued, "at this point I'd be in favor of making a motion that the commissioners support EverPower's position. There seems to be plenty of opportunities left for more discussion amongst the residents of Milton, basically, and other towns, too. And I think that the process will move forward in a logical manner, and it's transparent enough."

The board unanimously voted to approve Merrill's motion to retain the status quo "expedited" permitting process recommendation on EverPower's behalf to the LUPC.

The town of Woodstock is not making the same recommendation, however. On June 13 the Woodstock Board of Selectmen wrote the LUPC, "The Woodstock Board of Selectmen respectfully request that the Land Use Planning Commission remove Milton Township from the Expedited Permitting Area For Wind Energy Development. We do so for several reasons, foremost of which is our obligation to the citizens of Woodstock who, because of our contiguous border with Milton Township, will be in jeopardy of negative impacts to their property values, scenic views and quality of life."

The selectmen wrote that they had only recently learned of a potential 12-turbine wind farm "that may have very serious consequences not only for Woodstock and Milton Township residents, but also for our neighboring communities of Bethel, Rumford and Greenwood.

We strongly feel that any wind farm developer should be obligated to inform and work closely with the communities to be impacted. This has not occurred."

Bettina Testerman is one of the 17 Milton registered voters who signed the original petition to remove the EverPower project from the expedited permitting process. When told how the commissioners voted she said, " I'm pretty upset to think that they would continue without knowing what they're voting on. That makes me think they're not there for us."

Beyond the June 29 LUPC deadline to receive input about the expedited permitting process for EverPower in Milton Township, a public hearing at the LUPC is scheduled for Aug. 10.

► Source

NOTE/Opinion: County Commissioners are a direct ARM of the State Government, though elected by the people, they do the bidding of the Legislature or its Agencies as a form of governance for unincorporated areas in lieu of town governance. Living in the distance, where it is not in their backyards. The real NIMBY's --- where out of sight-out of mind makes it OK - ! Community Governance may pass Ordinances (local law) whereas these unorganized unincorporated areas can not though should be able to at the county level.

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Comment by Penny Gray on June 28, 2016 at 5:39pm

The commissioners are supporting the industrial developers, not the residents.  Follow the money.  It's the wind industry mantra; divide and conquer.  

Comment by Eric A. Tuttle on June 28, 2016 at 11:00am

Unfortunately, "We the People" in dealing with our everyday lives do not have the ability nor time to keep up with current statute nor monitor that which our elected officials do in our name, for their gain.

Communities DO have the ability to pass local ordinances (Laws) which govern the community in general as provided by the 9th and 10th amendments of both the state and federal constitutions when neither body offers or provides protections needed by its states or this nation's people. Protections that are afforded under the 2nd amendment of these constitutions.

Though at the current time they may not be in conflict with current statute, these ordinances may exceed protections already provided. These ordinances in sufficient numbers by sufficient communities provide the basis to place pressure on our elected officials to enact changes at a higher level of governance to the state.

Unorganized areas rely on County Commissioners to act as their (Overseers) governing body, in that they are to provide the state with oversight of condition and needs of those areas, submit requests to provide when possible and see that the appropriated funds or mandates be applied. Unorganized areas have no direct voice to enact ordinances but must rely on the opinions and or wishes of the few that were elected as commissioners to put forth to the state the wishes of the residents therein.

The Legislators, agencies or others that make decisions may or may not first hand become involved, however with a few key influential / discouraging words, handouts, trade-offs, bribes, or delays of enactments for pending statute /  rule revisions etc, the wishes of the people, the current or future needs of the state as a whole itself,  may be ignored or overlooked.

There are those, especially those in elected positions seeking Gain, that fear local protection enactments with the authority provided by constitution. These people will discourage and become nay sayers or outright engage in an illegal act of prevention while claiming they were only acting for an unproven majority (no vote) and would seek indemnification if or when caught under other statutes provided.

Change is feared when the outcome is not known by most, however this is what democracy is about in part. We are a nation with a government that is a Republic. A nation premised on governance by laws created by the people, and for the people, yet not such that they are set in Stone being un-moveable. This is the democracy provided by the same constitution, that which is our ability to keep our laws fluid and updated to meet the needs of the times.

The "Of the People" pertains to the fact these laws that we enact under our constitution are for Persons, real people. The laws pertain to "People" Not Corporations nor organizations or otherwise as a group which have their own internal governance which does not always comply with statute and are often found to be illegal acts. The laws are "For the People" to protect us (the people) from the likes of Corporations or organizations that would be the "enemy within". They are "By the People" to prevent Corporations or organizations from enacting special interest laws that seek to provide them with abilities and power over the people. (something we are allowing when we allow our "influenced" judicial system to interpret our intent of the law. Interpretations that seldom are enacted into law, by the people, but by those that we have elected if so done, though not without a tweaking influence.)

Now back on track.......... THOUGHTS...

I feel that our unorganized territories within this state should have a voting voice as one governance similar to a town government within each county. Having the ability to pass a county ordinance of protection at the will of the voting people of the county. Providing the UT's as a collective the ability to self determine the protections they need, until such time they form a charter or incorporated community as provided by process of statute, and returning to said abilities if later un-organizing.

Imagine all the elimination of oversight by the distant state agencies that could be eliminated and placed back on the local level of hands on, eyes on control.


End of my daily RANT.......  

Comment by Paula D Kelso on June 27, 2016 at 9:32pm

Thanks Eric for this post. It really is educational to hear how the process goes on these projects.

Educational, but not encouraging....

Hannah Pingree on the Maine expedited wind law

Hannah Pingree - Director of Maine's Office of Innovation and the Future

"Once the committee passed the wind energy bill on to the full House and Senate, lawmakers there didn’t even debate it. They passed it unanimously and with no discussion. House Majority Leader Hannah Pingree, a Democrat from North Haven, says legislators probably didn’t know how many turbines would be constructed in Maine."


Maine as Third World Country:

CMP Transmission Rate Skyrockets 19.6% Due to Wind Power


Click here to read how the Maine ratepayer has been sold down the river by the Angus King cabal.

Maine Center For Public Interest Reporting – Three Part Series: A CRITICAL LOOK AT MAINE’S WIND ACT


(excerpts) From Part 1 – On Maine’s Wind Law “Once the committee passed the wind energy bill on to the full House and Senate, lawmakers there didn’t even debate it. They passed it unanimously and with no discussion. House Majority Leader Hannah Pingree, a Democrat from North Haven, says legislators probably didn’t know how many turbines would be constructed in Maine if the law’s goals were met." . – Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting, August 2010 Part 2 – On Wind and Oil Yet using wind energy doesn’t lower dependence on imported foreign oil. That’s because the majority of imported oil in Maine is used for heating and transportation. And switching our dependence from foreign oil to Maine-produced electricity isn’t likely to happen very soon, says Bartlett. “Right now, people can’t switch to electric cars and heating – if they did, we’d be in trouble.” So was one of the fundamental premises of the task force false, or at least misleading?" Part 3 – On Wind-Required New Transmission Lines Finally, the building of enormous, high-voltage transmission lines that the regional electricity system operator says are required to move substantial amounts of wind power to markets south of Maine was never even discussed by the task force – an omission that Mills said will come to haunt the state.“If you try to put 2,500 or 3,000 megawatts in northern or eastern Maine – oh, my god, try to build the transmission!” said Mills. “It’s not just the towers, it’s the lines – that’s when I begin to think that the goal is a little farfetched.”

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