Citizens’ Task Force on Wind Power – Maine

Anti Wind ads hit Portland Press Herald

Saving Maine’s ad campaign has expanded to the Portland Press Herald, with two ads on different pages in the National section.  The ads which started today are this one here and, two pages later, the “Saudi Arabia of Wind” ad that I posted a few days ago that had run in the “Forecaster”.

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Utility buys out Vermont wind turbine neighbors

Don and Shirley Nelson, neighbors and longtime opponents of Green Mountain Power Corp.’s Lowell wind turbines, have settled with the power company and will move away.
Green Mountain Power will pay the Nelsons $1.3 million for their 540-acre Albany property on the east side of Lowell Mountain, directly downhill from where the utility has installed 21 wind turbines. The Nelsons will retain 35 acres and have up to two years to remain on the property, the utility said Monday in a statement.
“The agreement meets the needs of the Nelsons as well as those of our customers,” Green Mountain Power spokeswoman Dorothy Schnure said. “We believe that this settlement represents an opportunity for both to move forward.”
The Nelsons have fought various plans for installation of turbines on the mountain for a decade. The project finally came to fruition in 2011 when a neighboring landowner leased the ridgeline to Green Mountain Power and the town of Lowell voted to support the project. The project was completed in 2012.
The Nelsons’ land on Bayley Hazen Road has been in the family for 72 years and is where Don Nelson grew up. After the wind project was completed, the couple complained that the noise from the turbines made them ill and disputed the company’s noise measurements that showed them to be within standards set by the state.
The couple, who are retired dairy farmers, said Monday in a written statement that they plan to move “well away” from the turbines. They said they realized that the turbines would never be removed.
During the planning stages for the project, the Nelsons said they turned down an offer from Green Mountain Power to buy their property for $1.25 million, countering with $2.25 million that the utility rejected.
In 2011, Don Nelson said, “After 40 years of working, if you had to sell to someone who wanted to destroy what you built, would you? They’re changing the character of the Northeast Kingdom.”
Green Mountain Power sued the Nelsons for failing to keep protesters away. The Nelsons countersued, contesting the property boundary. Monday’s agreement will settle the still-pending court cases. As crews began blasting on the mountaintop to make room for the turbines’ concrete pads in 2011, the Nelsons tried unsuccessfully to persuade a judge to halt blasting and declined to deter protesters who sympathized with them. Six protesters were later arrested.
Ridge Protectors, a group of sympathizers, issued a statement Monday in support of the couple, saying they were forced off their property by a foreign-owned corporation in reference to Green Mountain Power’s Canadian owner, Gaz Metro. “Yes, they were paid for that property, but money runs a poor second to beauty, peace, quiet and a love for your land,” the group said.
Annette Smith, executive director of Vermonters for a Clean Environment, who worked with the Nelsons in their opposition, said the Nelsons tried unsuccessfully to find another use for their property once the turbines were built. “Green Mountain Power’s robbed it of its value,” she said. “There’s really no alternative.”
Smith said the Nelsons offered to sell the property to Green Mountain Power and then have it donated to nearby Sterling College, but the utility declined.
Schnure declined to say how the $1.3 million additional cost would affect the cost-benefit of the project or discuss other issues related to the settlement beyond the written statement the company issued Monday. “That’s all we’re really saying,” she said.
Smith wondered how the settlement would affect the rates Green Mountain Power charges customers.
Smith said the Nelsons’ fight shows that those who are affected by renewable energy projects can find no relief from state agencies. “The solution is get a lawyer and sue. It’s the only hope,” she said.
The turbines are designed to generate 63 megawatts of power, or enough electricity for the needs of about 24,000 Vermont homes.
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PRESS RELEASE from Fox Islands Wind Neighbors :
Contact: Alan Farago /Rufus Brown esq. 207 831 0569

After three years of litigation, a Maine Superior Court decision has finally found in favor of wind turbine neighbors complaining about excessive noise from three nearby 1.5 megawatt GE wind turbines. Although citizens across the United States living near wind turbines are complaining — including lawsuits against wind turbine operators — this is the first court case where a state judge has found against a state agency charged with enforcement; the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. Continue reading

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High court overrules agency OK of multi-million-dollar wind energy deal

A 2012 deal worth hundreds of millions of dollars to expand wind energy projects across the Northeast was dealt a blow Tuesday by the Maine supreme court, which ruled that a state agency’s approval of the complex deal was invalid.
The transaction included prominent wind developer First Wind, Maine utility companies Bangor Hydro and Maine Public Service and Nova Scotia-based electric utilities owner Emera, Inc.
The Public Utilities Commission (PUC) had approved the proposed transaction in April, 2012. In June, 2012, the companies announced they had closed the multi-part deal to affiliate, which would provide First Wind with the cash to build wind turbines across the region.
A press release stated the joint venture amounted to $361 million in loans and investments, adding that “the completion of the joint venture could lead to up to $3 billion in future economic investment in the region in the coming years.”
But between the PUC’s approval and the companies’ announcement of the closing, three parties appealed the approval to the state’s highest court. The appeals were made by the state Public Advocate, the Houlton Water Company and the Industrial Energy Consumers’ Group, which represents large energy users and advocates for lower electricity prices.
Their primary argument was that the deal would violate the state’s landmark electricity restructuring act. That law barred electricity transmission companies like Bangor Hydro from owning electricity generation because it was seen as anti-competitive and contributing to high electricity prices.
But in their approval of the deal, the PUC commissioners determined that “the risks of harm to ratepayers do not exceed the benefits if substantial conditions on the approval of the transaction are imposed.”
The Supreme Judicial Court’s opinion, issued Tuesday, came more than a year and a half after the court heard the case. Chief Justice Leigh Saufley wrote that, “Primary among the concerns raised by the interveners” is the potential that the companies would, “through these shared economic and business connections, obtain a competitive advantage over other generators in access to transmission and distribution … thus potentially defeating the purposes of the Restructuring Act.”
Saufley acknowledged that the Act contained “ambiguous language” regarding the relationships between affiliated companies that transmit and distribute power and companies that generate it. But her analysis concluded that the PUC’s approval was based on an erroneous interpretation of that language.
Saufley wrote that the PUC had determined that the transaction should be approved because the relationships between the companies did not amount to one company having a “controlling interest” in the other.
But, a “controlling interest,” wrote Saufley, wasn’t the standard set by the law.
“If the relationship among the entities results in the T&D (transmission and distribution) utility having a financial interest that would provide an incentive to favor certain generators over others, the proposed corporate restructuring is prohibited…
“The commission misinterpreted the statute,” wrote Saufley. “The Commission must reexamine the transactions proposed here,” using the court’s interpretation of the statute’s meaning.
PUC Chairman Tom Welch said Tuesday that “the commission never enjoys having the law court reverse and negate our decisions.”
The court’s decision puts into question the validity of the deal among the four companies. The deal was undertaken after getting PUC approval; if that approval is invalid, can the deal still stand?
“It does create a certain moment of awkwardness as to exactly what the status quo is at this point,” said Welch. “We’re certainly going to be soliciting the views of all the parties in the case as to what they think the implications of this are.”
First Wind spokesman John LaMontagne said that the company was “reviewing the decision and its implications to First Wind and our joint venture with Emera. First Wind will work with Emera as the PUC determines next steps. We remain committed to the joint venture with Emera, as it provides Maine and the Northeast with substantial benefits from development and continuing operation of new renewable energy assets.”
An Emera spokeswoman did not respond with comment by deadline.
Eric Bryant, the attorney in the state Public Advocate’s office who filed one of the appeals of the PUC decision, said that the court’s decision reaffirmed the purpose of the Restructuring Act. The Public Advocate represents the interests of ratepayers in state utility proceedings.
“The Restructuring Act was a balancing of the interests of the utilities and ratepayers, and the act’s separation of generation from the regulated utility was a significant piece of that and it served to protect ratepayers, because all the financial risk associated with generation was turned away from ratepayers,” said Bryant. “I’m gratified that this decision recognizes the goals of the restructuring act, it’s a victory for ratepayers.”
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Exporting Maine’s 
wind energy

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Vermont’s Public Service Board issued an order on Monday opening an investigation to consider the development of sound standards.

A prehearing conference will be held on January 8, 2014, 1:30 p.m., Pavilion Auditorium, Montpelier, Vermont (basement of building that houses the Governor’s office, next to the Supreme Court building which is next to the Statehouse).

Interested entities and individuals are encouraged to file written comments and recommendations on these topics in advance in order to facilitate discussion at the prehearing conference, no later than close of business on Dec. 31, 2013.



Vermonters for a Clean Environment currently is working with citizens on three open dockets before the PSB on wind turbine noise. It seems that our persistent efforts have gotten their attention. Now it’s up to those of you who are living with these big machines as neighbors, or are threatened by them, to tell the Board directly what it is you want them to do.


Annette Smith
Executive Director
Vermonters for a Clean Environment, Inc.
789 Baker Brook Rd.
Danby, VT 05739

office: (802) 446-2094

cell: (802) 353-6058

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Lawsuit Claims State Went Too Easy On Wind Energy Company

The Connecticut Law Tribune
2013-12-06 14:02:08.0

For several years now, a company called BNE Energy has wanted to place electricity-generating turbines in the Litchfield County town of Colebrook. The proposal has sparked vigorous legal opposition from nearby property owners and has prompted a long-running debate over proposed regulations governing wind energy projects in the state.

Now BNE is in the middle of another dispute. In 2010, in Canaan, about 20 miles west of the proposed Colebrook wind farm, the energy firm paid to have a wide swath of tall hemlocks, oaks and other trees cut down. The stated goal was to facilitate a study to see if that site would be appropriate for turbines.

BNE Energy thought the clearing was being done on private land, and even paid the adjacent-land owner for the rights. But it turns out the trees were actually in the Housatonic State Forest.

“BNE believed they were on private property where they had permission to clear the land and did immediately report the situation to us when they became concerned that they might have encroached on state property,” Dennis Schain, a spokesman for the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, said in an email that was released by an environmental group.

The agency reached a settlement agreement with BNE earlier this year. The energy company will have to pay for a survey of the cleared area as well as $10,000 in fines. The fine might be reduced if BNE finances an environmental study of the negative impact of cutting the trees.

Berkshire-Litchfield Environmental Council Inc., a nonprofit land preservation group, had been tracking the case since the trees came down. They view BNE in a harsher light than does the state agency. While the DEEP says BNE self-reported the cutting on public land, the environmental group says the matter was actually brought to the agency by reporters for the Hartford Courtant.

As such, the Berkshire-Litchfield group doesn’t believe the settlement goes far enough, especially since the state did not order the company to repair the damaged forest, which it says is required under state law. The organization filed a lawsuit earlier this year against DEEP and the state Attorney General’s Office, seeking to have the settlement agreement revoked.

The lawsuit calls for voiding the state’s settlement with BNA over cutting down more than 332 trees on nearly three acres, on the grounds that the deal violates state law. In documents that have been filed in the case, the environmental group points to a settlement in another tree-clearing case in which former attorney general Richard Blumenthal filed a lawsuit against Lamar Advertising of Hartford, which had illegally cleared 83 trees on state land along Interstate 84 to maximize visibility of a billboard.

Blumenthal’s lawsuit sought monetary damages for the restoration of property. In 2010, the state settled with Lamar for $188,000, which was to be used to replant trees where the cutting had been done.

In 2006, the legislature approved a law providing specific penalties for parties that unlawfully cut trees on state land. It calls for a fine to be opposed, and adds civil liability exposure of “three times the value of the trees, plus the cost of restoring the land.”

Attorneys associated with the Berkshire-Litchfield case say the lawsuit is important because for the first time a state trial court is being asked to enforce the law, which requires state forests to be “restored to their natural state” when trees are cut down without permission.

Nicholas Harding, an environmental lawyer with Reid & Riege in Hartford, is representing Berkshire-Litchfield Environmental Counsel in the DEEP lawsuit. He also represents FairWindCT, a group of land owners opposed to the Colebrook wind farm. In June, the Connecticut Siting Counsel approved the Colebrook farm, but a lawsuit by opponents has halted work on the project.

Harding notes that there are a limited number of lawyers in Connecticut who do this sort of work, and that he regularly represents those accused of illegal cutting as well as environmental groups.

“Here’s the importance” of the latest lawsuit, he said. “I defend a lot of people and industrial clients who make mistakes from time. So from now on, when someone wants to hold my clients accountable, I’m going to say, ‘Well these guys [BNE] cut down a million dollars worth of trees, and they only had to pay $10,000.”

Harding argues in the lawsuit filed in Hartford Superior Court that the DEEP did not follow the 2006 law when settling its complaint with BNE. In the complaint, the plaintiffs argue that the consent agreement reached between BNE and the DEEP should be voided. “Then we’ll see if the [current] Attorney General will step up and protect the forest the way Richard Blumenthal would have,” Harding said.

The named defendants in the lawsuit are Daniel Esty, commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, Susan Whalen, the deputy commissioner of the agency, and Attorney General George Jepsen. The Attorney General’s Office defends the state in all civil legal matters and is routinely included in lawsuits against state agencies.

According to the lawsuit, the area cleared of trees included a “dry subacidic forest,” which is considered by environmentalists to be a “key habitat of greatest conservation need.”

In addition to the trees, the area was a habitat for red bats, hoary bats, raptors and hawks.

Starling Childs, a Yale-educated forester who has been supporting the environmental group’s legal fight, said the punishment BNE received was insufficient.

“There is a very defined and stated protocol for restitution and restoration under such egregious natural area destruction and protected forest trespass such as the folks from BNE did,” Childs said. “We engaged one of the best tree-appraisal specialists in the state, and based on the defendant’s own stump tally count of more than 500 trees, and measurements of those trees submitted to DEEP, the fair estimate runs well north of $1 million.”

The lawsuit calls for the state to recover that amount from BNE. But Harding said the claim is more about establishing how the state will prevent similar deforesting events from occurring in the future.

He is quick to note that he has no major complaints with Esty in general: “I think Esty has done some very good things on his watch.”

Harding said there have been ongoing settlement talks with the parties in the lawsuit.

Paul Corey, general counsel and chairman of BNE Energy, did not return calls seeking comment. The DEEP deferred comments to the Attorney General’s Office, which said in a statement that the lawsuit filed by the Berkshire-Litchfield Environmental Council “lacks merit.”

“We will continue to defend this suit,” the A.G.’s statement said. “We believe DEEP acted within its authority in seeking to resolve the matters through a consent decree. We remain hopeful that his matter can be resolved through discussions with” the Berkshire-Litchfield Environmental Council.•

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Opinion: Connecticut deserves a good wind turbine law

By Joyce Hemingson: Monday, December 2, 2013

The issues that have been raised about industrial wind turbines are not new. They date back to the legislature’s Energy & Technology Committee public hearing on Feb. 3, 2011, which led to the passage of Bill 11-245 in the last hour of the legislative session in June 2011. Continue reading

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                 ENRD
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 22, 2013                                                          (202) 514-2007
WWW.JUSTICE.GOV                                                            TTY (866) 544-5309
          WASHINGTON Duke Energy Renewables Inc., a subsidiary of Duke Energy Corp., based in Charlotte, N.C., pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Wyoming today to violating the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) in connection with the deaths of protected birds, including golden eagles, at two of the companys wind projects in Wyoming.  This case represents the first ever criminal enforcement of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act for unpermitted avian takings at wind projects.
          Under a plea agreement with the government, the company was sentenced to pay fines, restitution and community service totaling $1 million and was placed on probation for five years, during which it must implement an environmental compliance plan aimed at preventing bird deaths at the companys four commercial wind projects in the state.  The company is also required to apply for an Eagle Take Permit which, if granted, will provide a framework for minimizing and mitigating the deaths of golden eagles at the wind projects.
          The charges stem from the discovery of 14 golden eagles and 149 other protected birds, including hawks, blackbirds, larks, wrens and sparrows by the company at its Campbell Hill and Top of the World wind projects in Converse County between 2009 and 2013.  The two wind projects are comprised of 176 large wind turbines sited on private agricultural land.
          According to the charges and other information presented in court, Duke Energy Renewables Inc. failed to make all reasonable efforts to build the projects in a way that would avoid the risk of avian deaths by collision with turbine blades, despite prior warnings about this issue from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).  However, the company cooperated with the USFWS investigation and has already implemented measures aimed at minimizing avian deaths at the sites.
          This case represents the first criminal conviction under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act for unlawful avian takings at wind projects, said Robert G. Dreher, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.  In this plea agreement, Duke Energy Renewables acknowledges that it constructed these wind projects in a manner it knew beforehand would likely result in avian deaths. To its credit, once the projects came on line and began causing avian deaths, Duke took steps to minimize the hazard, and with this plea agreement has committed to an extensive compliance plan to minimize bird deaths at its Wyoming facilities and to devote resources to eagle preservation and rehabilitation efforts.
          The Service works cooperatively with companies that make all reasonable efforts to avoid killing migratory birds during design, construction and operation of industrial facilities, said William Woody, Assistant Director for Law Enforcement of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  But we will continue to investigate and refer for prosecution cases in which companies – in any sector, including the wind industry – fail to comply with the laws that protect the publics wildlife resources.
          More than 1,000 species of birds, including bald and golden eagles, are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA).  The MBTA, enacted in 1918, implements this countrys commitments under avian protection treaties with Great Britain (for Canada), Mexico, Japan and Russia.  The MBTA provides a misdemeanor criminal sanction for the unpermitted taking of a listed species by any means and in any manner, regardless of fault.  The maximum penalty for an unpermitted corporate taking under the MBTA is $15,000 or twice the gross gain or loss resulting from the offense, and five years probation.
          According to papers filed with the court, commercial wind power projects can cause the deaths of federally protected birds in four primary ways: collision with wind turbines, collision with associated meteorological towers, collision with, or electrocution by, associated electrical power facilities, and nest abandonment or behavior avoidance from habitat modification.  Collision and electrocution risks from power lines (collisions and electrocutions) and guyed structures (collision) have been known to the utility and communication industries for decades, and specific methods of minimizing and avoiding the risks have been developed, in conjunction with the USFWS. The USFWS issued its first interim guidance about how wind project developers could avoid impacts to wildlife from wind turbines in 2003, and replaced these with a tiered approach outlined in the Land-Based Wind Energy Guidelines (2012 LBWEGs), developed with the wind industry starting in 2007 and released in final form by the USFWS on March 23, 2012.  The Service also released Eagle Conservation Plan Guidance in April 2013 and strongly recommends that companies planning or operating wind power facilities in areas where eagles occur work with the agency to implement that guidance completely.
          For wind projects, due diligence during the pre-construction stageas described in the 2003 Interim Guidelines and tiers I through III in the 2012 LBWEGsby surveying the wildlife present in the proposed project area, consulting with agency professionals, determining whether the risk to wildlife is too high to justify proceeding and, if not, carefully siting turbines so as to avoid and minimize the risk as much as possible, is critically important because, unlike electric distribution equipment and guyed towers, at the present time, no post-construction remedies, except curtailment (i.e., shut-down), have been developed that can render safe a wind turbine placed in a location of high avian collision risk.  Other experimental measures to reduce prey, detect and deter avian proximity to turbines are being tested.  In the western United States, golden eagles may be particularly susceptible to wind turbine blade collision by wind power facilities constructed in areas of high eagle use.
          The $400,000 fine imposed in the case will be directed to the federally-administered North American Wetlands Conservation Fund.  The company will also pay $100,000 in restitution to the State of Wyoming, and perform community service by making a $160,000 payment to the congressionally-chartered National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, designated for projects aimed at preserving golden eagles and increasing the understanding of ways to minimize and monitor interactions between eagles and commercial wind power facilities, as well as enhance eagle rehabilitation and conservation efforts in Wyoming.  Duke Energy Renewables is also required to contribute $340,000 to a conservation fund for the purchase of land, or conservation easements on land, in Wyoming containing high-use golden eagle habitat, which will be preserved and managed for the benefit of that species.  The company must implement a migratory bird compliance plan containing specific measures to avoid and minimize golden eagle and other avian wildlife mortalities at companys four commercial wind projects in Wyoming.
          According to papers filed with the court, Duke Energy Renewables will spend approximately $600,000 per year implementing the compliance plan.  Within 24 months, the company must also apply to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for a Programmatic Eagle Take Permit at each of the two wind projects cited in the case.
          The case was investigated by Special Agents of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and prosecuted by Senior Counsel Robert S. Anderson of the Justice Departments Environmental Crimes Section of the Environment and Natural Resources Division and Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Conder of the District of Wyoming.
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Judge orders limited use of wind turbines

Nov. 23, 2013 Republican American story: 
Judge orders limited use of wind turbines


BARNSTABLE, Mass. — The town of Falmouth was ordered by a judge on Friday to limit the hours two town­owned wind turbines operate after neighbors blamed them for health problems.

Effective immediately, the energy-generating turbines at the Cape Cod town’s waste­water treatment facility are only allowed to operate from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. on every day of the week except Sun­day, and are not allowed to operate at all on Thanksgiv­ing Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, Superior Court Judge Christopher Muse wrote in the decision.

Neil and Elizabeth Ander­sen, who live about a quarter of a mile from the turbines, said they caused “continuous insomnia, headaches, psycho­logical disturbances, dental injuries, and other forms of malaise” they had not suf­fered prior to the turbines’ construction.

“The court finds the Ander­sens claims that they did not experience such symptoms prior to the construction and operation of the turbines, and that that each day of opera­tion produces further injury, to be credible,” the judge wrote.

Continued operation of the turbines at previous levels put residents at risk of “irreparable physical and psychological harm,” the judge wrote.

The environmental group Wind Wise Massachusetts called it a landmark decision.

“This is believed to be the first time that a court in the U.S. has ruled that there is sufficient evidence that wind turbines near residential areas are a health hazard to families living nearby,” said Virginia Irvine, president of Wind Wise Massachusetts.

The decision has repercus­sions in other Massachusetts towns where wind turbines are being blamed for health problems, Neil Andersen said. “It’s torture,” he said of the turbines’ noise and pres­sure effects. “But this deci­sion is a victory. It gives us some relief.”

The 1.65 megawatt tur­bines were erected about 3½ years ago to power the treat­ment plant and to create rev­enue for the town by selling electricity back to the grid.

They ran 24/7 at first, but more recently have been run­ning from 5 a.m. until 9 p.m.

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