Maine House Votes No On LePage's Proposed Changes to Wind Energy Permits

Apr 4, 2018

State lawmakers are giving an initial thumbs down to Gov. Paul LePage's proposal to raise the bar for new wind energy projects in Maine.

The governor wants to limit streamlined permit reviews to wind projects only in eastern Aroostook County. And he wants to expand reviews of their visual impacts to anywhere within 70 miles of significant scenic resources.

Rep. Paul Stearns, a Guilford Republican, says he sees the scenic harm wind farms can do first hand.The porch of his camp on Piper Pond in Abbot is in the shadow of the Bingham wind plantation.

Local zoning, he points out, bars him from even adding to his own porch, “because it would dramatically change the way that camp fits into its natural surroundings. Yet my neighbor across the pond, six miles out, was able to put up 45-mile high towers, that spin occasionally when the wind blows. And I get to watch blinking red lights, at night. In unison."

But Rep. Heather Sanborn, a Portland Democrat, argues that windmills are far from a blight on the landscape. She says they signify sustainable economic development for Maine.

"So when I see the wind turbines dotted along the ridges from the top of a ski area, to me they look like hope,” she says. “They look like hope we'll still have a tourism industry based on snow sports in 50 years, because we won't have so much global warming that it ceases to snow in Maine. They look like hope that we will have clean energy and clean water because we have renewable energy in our energy mix. And so to me, they look beautiful."

The Maine House voted against the governor's proposal 89 to 53. The Senate has yet to act.

This story was originally published April 3, 2018 at 5:03 p.m. ET.