CONTRIBUTORS

Baldacci, not LePage, rushed important law

Posted April 12, 2012, at 3:57 p.m.

David Farmer’s recent complaints (“Stress as Republicans play beat the clock,” April 4 column) that Gov. Paul LePage is rushing bills even if “some ideas are not ready for prime time” ring hollow when compared to Gov. John Baldacci’s record.

As a private citizen who has been fighting the “not-so-ready-for-prime-time” idea of industrial wind power for three years, I would like to refresh Mr. Farmer’s memory. Mr. Farmer, Gov. Baldacci’s spokesperson, surely remembers the timeline for the wind act, one of the most destructive pieces of environmental legislation in Maine’s history.

LD 2283 was introduced in the second session of the 123rd Legislature and two weeks later it was enacted by both houses. It was signed by the governor within a week. Here is the timeline from 2008:

March 27: The House and Senate accepted the bill and referred it to the Utilities Committee.

March 31: Forgoing the Administrative Procedure Act, which requires a two-weekend public notice before a hearing, the Utilities Committee had the public hearing on LD 2283. The day was Monday, so the public had one full business day (Friday, March 28) to become familiar with a bill that reversed five decades of protection for Maine’s mountains.

April 2: The committee scheduled a work session less than 48 hours after the public hearing closed. It reviewed the enormous bill in one afternoon and immediately voted unanimously “ought to pass.“

April 8: Four business days later, the bill was reported out of the committee for House and Senate action.

April 9: The Senate accepted the committee report, suspended the rules and did both first and second readings at the same time without a vote. It then sent it to the House, where in minutes the exact same “expedited” approval happened without a vote.

April 9: Both the House and Senate suspended the rules again, this time forgoing the customary day of waiting and sending the bill for its first passage to be “engrossed.” They adjourned that day’s session with the bill having been approved three times in each body, but without a vote. These preliminary votes often are not recorded votes, but the speed of these was sufficient — especially given the crush of late-session business — to move it through without notice.

April 11: The bill got its final enactment in the House and Senate without any dissent. House: 139-0, Senate: 34-0.

April 18: Gov. Baldacci signed Ch. 661 into law, and the wind power gold rush was unleashed on an unsuspecting populace.

Another example of Gov. Baldacci’s haste to steamroll his wind power agenda involved health impacts from wind turbine noise, an issue which continues to plague the industry. On Feb. 8, 2009, the Rumford Community Hospital staff sent a request for a moratorium on wind projects to Gov. Baldacci, based on emerging reports of health effects. The request also was addressed to Dora Mills, who was then head of the Maine Center for Disease Control.

On Feb. 10 of that year, Dr. Mills emailed: “I did some scanning overnight of some of the research on health effects due to wind turbines as well as existing Maine laws. Comparing their findings to existing Maine laws it appears that our own law (under Maine DEP statute) is quite comprehensive and inclusive of the issue related to wind turbine development.”

The moratorium was rejected less than a week after it was requested.

Dr. Mills’ opinion of the safe siting of wind turbines based on her overnight research never changed and helped reject the appeals of several projects both at the BEP and the law court during her term under the Baldacci administration.

Two years later, in September 2011, after more than a year of studies and eight hours of testimony and cross examination of medical experts in medicine and acoustics, the BEP voted to improve the noise regulations even though Dr. Mills opposed it again.

Both the expedited wind law passed by the Legislature and the “expedited opinion” of Dr. Mills on the subject of wind turbine noise have created a multitude of hardships for Maine residents forced to live too close to turbines, with inescapable noise and under gag orders if “noise easements” have been granted to the wind company (without disclosure by the wind company of the potential effects).

After another moratorium was requested in December 2010, Farmer said, “The wind power laws on the books are the result of a careful process that included a transparent task force and unanimous support in the Legislature.” No, just a legislative rush with painful consequences for too many residents, and the numbers are growing,

Monique Aniel, MD, co-chairs the Citizens Task Force on Wind Power. She lives in Oquossoc.

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