Baldacci seeks wind power cooperation

Posted Feb. 19, 2010, at 9:26 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. John Baldacci was in Washington, D.C., on Friday to discuss opportunities for more regional cooperation between Atlantic Coast states and the federal government for developing offshore wind energy facilities.

The same day in Augusta, a group of critics of Maine’s wind power policies held a press conference just outside of Baldacci’s office calling for a statewide moratorium on new permits for land-based wind farms. Baldacci, a strong proponent of wind power in Maine, promptly rejected the idea of a moratorium.

In Washington, Baldacci joined the governors from Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia for a discussion with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar about a more regional approach to offshore wind.

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Following the meeting, Salazar said the federal government plans to streamline the permitting process for offshore wind projects and plans to create an Atlantic Wind Consortium to improve cooperation among the states.

Salazar said states have been moving much more aggressively on the issue than the federal government, which did not even have rules governing offshore wind projects until last year. He said the Obama administration is committed to making development of offshore wind and other renewable energy projects a top priority.

“Our view is working together we can do more,” Salazar said during a press conference in Washington that was also accessible by phone to reporters. “Frankly, the states have been leading the way.”

Baldacci said he was pleased with the spirit of regional cooperation and to hear the support from federal officials for developing offshore wind.

“We are very pleased to be part of that discussion,” Baldacci said.

Maine has identified several testing sites for offshore wind technology. The University of Maine also has received $25 million in federal grants to lead a consortium researching turbines placed in deep waters such as those found in the Gulf of Maine.

Meanwhile, a group of activists known as the Citizen’s Task Force on Wind Power on Friday called on state officials to enact a moratorium on industrial wind farms in Maine.

The organization’s members also called on the Maine Department of Environmental Protection to develop new noise regulations and minimum setback requirements for wind power projects.

Several residents who say they have suffered ill health effects from living near the state’s existing wind farms spoke at the news conference or supplied testimonials in support of the moratorium.

Baldacci spokesman David Farmer said the governor rejects the idea of a moratorium. Farmer says a thorough review and permitting process is in effect and Baldacci supports properly sited wind power.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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