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Public advocate reverses position on giant wind energy deal

The state public advocate’s office, which represents the interests of utility customers in Maine, has withdrawn its opposition to a multimillion-dollar transaction to build wind turbines across Maine and the Northeast.

The move was made, said Public Advocate Timothy Schneider, after his office reviewed its previous position and decided that the deal would neither undermine state utility regulation nor would it threaten ratepayers with higher energy prices. Continue Reading →

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PUC ponders what’s next for multimillion-dollar wind deal vacated by court

Now what?

That’s the question being asked by regulators, utilities and representatives of one of the biggest business deals to hit the state in a long time, after Maine’s high court invalidated regulatory approval of that deal.

The deal is a complex transaction, worth hundreds of millions of dollars, to build wind turbines across the region. Continue Reading →

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High court overrules agency OK of multi-million-dollar wind energy deal

A 2012 deal worth hundreds of millions of dollars to expand wind energy projects across the Northeast was dealt a blow Tuesday by the Maine supreme court, which ruled that a state agency’s approval of the complex deal was invalid. The transaction included prominent wind developer First Wind, Maine utility companies Bangor Hydro and Maine Public Service and Nova Scotia-based electric utilities owner Emera, Inc. Continue Reading →

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Rural citizens lose battle to have say in wind tower rezoning

“I feel like a citizen who is seen to be of less value than my neighbors,” said Karen Bessey Pease, after Maine Senate Democrats Wednesday sidelined an effort to give her and other residents of the state’s most rural areas a say in whether wind towers are built in their communities.

“We just asked to have the same rights to determination of zoning issues in our community as our next-door neighbors have,” said Pease, of Lexington Township. “It’s very unfortunate that the Senate voted the way they did.” Continue Reading →

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Lawmakers want to restore rights to residents in wind tower zones

A legislative committee today sided with residents in some of the state’s western mountains in their fight to have more say over the construction of industrial wind towers in their backyards. If the full legislature approves the bill, it would be the first significant blow to the state’s ambitious Wind Energy Act. Continue Reading →

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Wind power’s grip on Augusta weakening as ‘God’s Country’ presses its case

They came from the townships and plantations of Concord, Lexington, Highland, Carrying Place and Pleasant Ridge. They set out for the statehouse in Augusta from the five sparsely populated backcountry communities set between the Kennebec and Carrabassett rivers, from a wooded intervale etched by streams, dappled by lakes and cradled by the hills and mountains of western Maine. Continue Reading →

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Energy firms announced deal despite risk posed by legal appeal

Less than two weeks ago, a Canadian energy company and a major wind power developer with turbines in Maine announced they had closed a deal worth hundreds of millions of dollars to expand wind power projects across the Northeast. But the announcement left out one important fact that could jeopardize the deal: Legal appeals had been filed just days before by the state’s Office of the Public Advocate and a Maine utility company challenging a ruling by a state agency that cleared the way for the joint venture. “I was somewhat surprised” to see the announcement that the deal had closed, said Eric Bryant, the attorney in the Public Advocate’s office who filed one of the appeals. “It’s unusual for a company to make a decision when there’s risk involved that it may have to undo it because of a legal matter.”

The partnership is between Emera, a Canadian energy company that owns electric utilities in the Northeastern US, Atlantic Canada and elsewhere, and First Wind, which develops, constructs, operates and owns utility-scale wind projects across the United States and in Hawaii. First Wind is the Northeast’s largest wind power developer and has four major wind projects in Maine, with a fifth, Bull Hill, under construction. Continue Reading →

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Utility regulators used broad authority in approving wind deal

The Maine Public Utilities Commission recently issued a decision in a hotly contested case allowing Emera, the Nova Scotia company that owns Bangor Hydro and Maine Public Service, to create a new company with First Wind, a major wind power developer. The three-member regulatory body decided that the economic development benefits of the project had so much potential that they could approve it while imposing enough conditions to protect utility customers. In its decision, the PUC went against the recommendations of its own experienced staff and all of the parties to the case, other than the applicants.  Those parties, including the Maine Public Advocate, represented utility customers and the Northern Maine Independent System Administrator, the neutral body responsible for maintaining electric reliability in northern Maine. According to a report by the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting, a principal focus of the PUC decision was the potential the new entity would have for creating jobs in Maine, perhaps more than any other development now on the horizon.  Though Maine’s unemployment rate is well below the national level, job creation remains near the top of voters’ concerns. That the PUC should give economic considerations great weight while finding that its conditions were sufficient to provide consumer protection reflects a broad view of its mandate. Continue Reading →

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Multi-million-dollar wind deal approved by state regulators

State regulators on Tuesday approved a multi-million-dollar deal that could fund construction of hundreds of wind turbines in Maine and the Northeast, despite a staff recommendation to reject the proposal. All three members of the Public Utilities Commission voted for a complex series of transactions among First Wind, Bangor Hydro and Maine Public Service and their parent, Nova Scotia-based Emera, Inc., and Ontario-based Algonquin Power and Utilities Corp. The commissioners said the economic benefit of such investment was substantial, that any potential harm from the deal could be mitigated by PUC-imposed conditions and that the deal helped meet the ambitious goals of Maine’s 2008 Wind Power Act. Maine currently has 205 commercial wind turbines that can produce 400 megawatts of electricity. Tuesday’s deal could pave the way for construction of turbines producing an additional 1,200 megawatts. Continue Reading →

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