Last September marked the opening of the wind farm in Oakfield. Although wind power in the decade has begun to prove its benefits, many still seem to doubt its value to Maine’s economy. Speaking on behalf of my business, I can say the value is real.
I work at Stantec Consulting, a small environmental consulting office in Topsham, which is part of a much larger company. Our roughly 50 wildlife biologists, wetland scientists, engineers and others do a variety of work, but we’re known for our expertise in the environmental evaluation of wind power development. Much of our work is in Maine, but we also work on wind projects all across the country: Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Texas, California and beyond.
More than 20 people in this office who are from Maine or went to Maine colleges spend the majority of their time on wind projects. Many of them hold advanced degrees. And every year we host interns from the University of Maine to engage with up-and-coming environmental scientists in the exciting work we do. Over the last several years, as the economy took a nose dive, we were able to maintain — and even grow — our office, thanks in large part to the jobs sustained by wind power.
The continued interest in the wind industry in Maine makes it possible for companies such as ours to help assess when and where wind power makes sense and uphold our state’s reputation as a leader in environmental responsibility.
As I drive through Bangor, I am amazed at the poor driving and lack of courtesy on the road. Surprisingly, this poor driving is not the sole fault of the inexperienced. Many violators are of my generation, and I know they are aware of the rules of the road because I was taught them through driving manuals and everyday courtesy that just made sense.
A good example I see all the time happens at the light to turn right off Interstate 95 onto Broadway. The sign states “No turn on red.” It doesn’t say except when there is no traffic on Broadway or when no police officer is around. This is not always the inexperienced, but it is always the impatient.
Recently, I was at the intersection of 14th and Ohio streets waiting to turn left onto Ohio. A driver, who had the right of way, was waiting at the intersection to continue down 14th Street. I could tell by the look on his face that he didn’t dare cross the intersection because he didn’t know what I was going to do. So I waved him on and then made my turn.
If we can at least read and obey traffic signs, then perhaps fewer accidents would occur and the cost of insurance would lessen for all of us. I am completely fed up with everyone doing things just because they want to and to heck with everyone else. There are rules, and they need to be followed and enforced.
Many public employees who public retirement benefits should receive Social Security benefits, but the federal government does not allow them to. This is unfair. These responsible, honest and hardworking people may have up to half their Social Security benefits reduced. This is called the windfall elimination provision.
The government pension offset is another unfair situation. If two-thirds of someone’s public retirement benefits exceeds half of a spouse’s monthly Social Security benefit payment, he or she receives nothing as survivor or spouse.
Fifteen states use these laws. The rest may use a form of windfall elimination provision or government pension offset on anyone collecting a government pension. Both these laws go too far in reducing benefits for hardworking American citizens. Even using the terms “windfall elimination” is insulting. These people are getting the benefits they contributed to during their working years.
The Social Security Fairness Act of 2015, currently under consideration in the U.S. House of Representatives, would repeal the windfall elimination provision and the government pension offset. A similar bill is working it way through the U.S. Senate. Another bill in the House — the Equal Treatment of Public Servants Act — would reform the windfall elimination provision formula and replace it with a new Social Security formula beginning in 2017. Under this bill everyone would see their benefits determined equally, and it would cover current and future retirees.
People should write or call their legislators and urge them to support the passage of these bills.
Karen E. Holmes