On Wednesday, March 9th, the Land Use Planning Commission (LUPC) convened its monthly Commissioners’ meeting at Jeff’s Catering in Brewer. One Agenda item of particular interest to several Maine communities was the Chapter 10 Rulemaking pertaining to Maine’s Expedited Permitting Area for wind development.
In June of 2015, the 127th Maine Legislature passed a bill (LD 828 –HP 562) which created an avenue for Unorganized and Deorganized Territories in Maine to be removed from this Industry-specific expedited permitting region. UT’s were given a six month window of opportunity (January 1 to June 30, 2016) to submit petitions to LUPC requesting removal from the EPA.
As of March 9th, twenty-three Unorganized Territories in Maine have requested removal. By statute, anyone wishing to challenge a UT’s removal has 45 days to request a “substantive review”. In those circumstances the Commissioners must meet to determine whether or not the UT’s in question meet the standards for removal. However, if a substantive review is NOT requested within that 45 day time-frame, the townships are automatically removed from the EPA.
On Wednesday, Commissioners were presented with information on the status of each of those twenty-three Unorganized Townships.
It was determined that thirteen communities had met the criteria set forth in HP 562 and the Commission approved LUPC staff’s recommendation that they be officially removed from the Expedited Permitting Area. Among those UT’s removed were the communities of Lexington Township, Highland Plantation, Freeman Township, The Forks and West Forks, Sandbar Tract Township, Rockwood Strip Township and Harford’s Point Township. In essence, these townships and plantations were returned to their pre-2008 status, i.e. residents are given the opportunity to take part in a Public Hearing prior to any decisions concerning issues of re-zoning.
Substantive reviews have been requested for at least eight UT’s who have petitioned for removal, including townships west of Moosehead Lake where an industrial wind development is being proposed in the Misery Gore region. Petitions have also been challenged in Molunkus Township and Carroll Plantation which are in the Downeast Lakes region -- where First Wind’s ‘Bowers Wind’ project was recently denied by the Department of Environmental Protection, and later by the BEP and the Law Court on appeal.
To learn more about the status of the each community in question or to get information about the process for removal, the Land Use Planning Commission has provided the following link:
I encourage you to contact every UT resident you know who lives and votes in Maine. Encourage them to look at the EPA map/list to see if they reside within a UT in the EPA… and if they DO – encourage them to exercise their right to ‘have a say’ in matters of zoning in their home towns. The window of opportunity is shrinking. There are 3 ½ months left in which to take action. The petitioning process is fairly straightforward and easy, with a low threshold of registered voters needed to quality. Unless Maine’s Wind Energy Act is overturned (thus abolishing the EPA…but that won’t happen in the near future!) this may be their only chance to regain the right to take part in the zoning/approval process concerning industrial wind development.
I also hope you will learn more about the procedures that will be in place for these upcoming “Substantive Reviews”. We need to be ready, willing and able to provide assistance and support to those living in UT’s that have had their requests for removal ‘challenged.’
Kudos to the many, many Mainers who stood up for the restoration of equal rights for all rural Maine residents. You’ve seen what can happen when we work together. Let’s keep up the good work that has been started!