Friends of Lincoln Lakes attempts to stall First Wind project with finances inquiry

Posted Nov. 30, 2010, at 8:40 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 7:25 a.m.

The Friends of Lincoln Lakes is asking the state’s top court to suspend Massachusetts-based First Wind’s construction of its $130 million Rollins Mountain industrial wind site until the company can prove it has the financial means to finish the project.

The group’s latest of at least a dozen attempts to stop the 40-turbine wind project asks the Maine Supreme Judicial Court for a judicial review of the conditions of approval the Maine Department of Environmental Protection granted the company in its April 2009 permit.

Under the conditions, First Wind must submit documentation demonstrating its financial capacity to build the project. The company’s spokesman has admitted in numerous media outlets that it has not yet assembled financing for the project, and a letter and unaudited financial statement the DEP accepted as evidence of financial capacity contain “some very negative financial data for the company,” Friends attorney Lynne Williams wrote in her five-page appeal to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.

Several key people at the DEP also did not review the documents, she said.

“It is very troubling to the petitioners that a sophisticated and complicated financial document was accepted at face value by a single staff person at DEP without the input and analysis of an experienced financial professional or even her supervisors,” Williams wrote.

“Even more troubling is the fact that, financial submissions notwithstanding and by its own admission, the company has not yet raised the funds for the project and has thereby failed to demonstrate financial capacity,” she added.

First Wind spokesman John Lamontagne said the company expected to announce the project’s financial backers by Jan. 1. He dismissed the group’s claim as baseless.

“It appears to be yet another effort to thwart renewable energy development in Maine and to deny Maine the benefits renewable energy can bring,” Lamontagne said Tuesday. “This project was thoroughly reviewed when it was approved by the DEP and the town of Lincoln. Those permitting decisions were twice appealed and twice upheld by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.”

“The fact is that we submitted something that demonstrated our ability to finance that project. We cleared that hurdle,” he added.

Friends’ various appeals of the project to the DEP, the Board of Environmental Protection, Maine Supreme Judicial Court, Lincoln planning board, Lincoln planning appeals board and planning boards of nearby towns have failed.

Five members of Friends or other anti-wind groups were also arrested in November on criminal trespass charges in connection with their joining hands and blocking a road on the construction site during a protest. Those charges are pending.

The Friends group has been critical of First Wind’s admitted need for federal and state tax breaks, including a federal stimulus program that began in 2009 and offers cash grants for as much as 30 percent of a project’s cost in lieu of an investment tax credit. First Wind received $254 million in grants for four projects and has admitted that the loss or reduction of those programs would damage the company’s ability to get financing.

First Wind failed earlier this fall in its long-planned bid to go public and sell stock to investors.

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