Monday, January 10, 2011
Blatant Bribery--"Maine-- the way life SHOULD be"???
I grew up in a home where we Bessey children were expected to conform to a certain set of principles. My parents were strict, but not unreasonable. They accepted the fact that as their children developed and grew--we would occasionally feel the need to ‘buck the system’. It’s only natural to rebel against authority. But even though Mum and Dad gave their children some leeway and practiced a bit of forbearance, there were some things which were not tolerated. Period.
Lying was not allowed. It was far better to have broken a rule and admitted to it, than to have lied about it. Neither was stealing acceptable--or unkindness, or swearing, or breaking the law. Disrespect was not looked upon favorably, but I think Mum and Dad recognized that young adults didn’t always display the best judgment, and once in awhile, we could rebel against them (and them, only--and somewhat respectfully) without suffering any grave consequences.
But that was when we were adolescents. Our brains--and our personalities--were still expanding and being cultivated. It was always taken for granted that—as adults—we would ‘know better’. That the foundation given us of morality and propriety would serve us well and guide us into adulthood.
I’ve been reviewing the revised permit application which Highland Wind, LLC submitted to Maine’s Land Use Regulation Commission two weeks ago; on December 28, 2010. For those of you who follow this blog, you will know that the original permit application was submitted one year ago. It was deemed ‘complete’ by LURC at the end of January, 2010 and the Friends of the Highland Mountains worked feverishly for the next two weeks to gather enough petition signatures to convince LURC to grant us a Public Hearing on this wind development proposal.
In March 2010, at the first LURC Commissioners’ meeting wherein HW LLC’s permit application was part of the agenda, we learned from the Commissioners that the permit application was NOT, in fact, complete--and we lodged a formal complaint requesting that the ‘expedited permitting clock’ be stopped, and the permit set aside until such a time as the developers met the ‘completeness’ standard. At the April 2010 meeting, the Commissioners agreed to pull the application, citing the fact that Highland Wind, LLC, did not have sufficient title, right or interest (TRI) in a parcel of land which they needed to cross in order to transmit their wind-generated power from Highland Plantation to Wyman Station.
Yesterday, I began to review Highland Wind LLC’s revised permit application. What I read should deeply trouble every Mainer. Every American! For in this permit application, Highland Wind LLC offers what I consider to be a blatant bribe to a government agency.
This is a quote taken from the permit application submitted by Angus King and Rob Gardiner, the principles in Independence Wind, of which Highland Wind, LLC is a subsidiary. I took it from the ‘tangible benefits’ section of the application…
For the Maine Department of Conservation, Bureau of Parks and Lands: Highland Wind will provide $1,040,000 to the Maine Department of Conservation, Bureau of Parks and Lands (BPL)over a twenty year period, as a “donation for land or natural resource conservation” pursuant to 35-A MRSA §3451 (1-C) (C). This land or natural resource conservation will be comprised of two
A. Permanent protection for Stewart Mountain from the development of wind turbines. On or before the triggering date, Highland Wind shall execute or cause to be executed a legally sufficient document that will extinguish in perpetuity all rights of any current or future landowner to site wind turbines on the land comprising approximately 572 acres on Stewart Mountain that was previously proposed by Highland Wind as the location for eight wind turbines. The current fair market value lost for extinguishing these wind turbine development rights is $253,000.
B. Payments for Additional Bigelow Preserve Viewshed Protection. Highland Wind will made twenty annual payments of $39,350 to BPL, to be used for protecting the viewshed from trails in the Bigelow Preserve. Over 20 years, BPL will receive $787,000 in total annual payments. The initial annual payment from Highland Wind is due on the triggering date. In the alternative, and at the request of BPL, Highland Wind is prepared to make the entire 20-year value of these twenty payments available to BPL as a single, lump-sum payment due at the triggering date, with the
lump-sum amount calculated as a net present value of this twenty-year income stream.
All payments owed to BPL would be distributed by Highland Wind to an agreed-upon third-party escrow/disbursal agent and placed in a segregated, separately invested and administered Bigelow Preserve Scenic Viewshed Fund. (Viewshed Fund). BPL will be granted the authority to use the monies in the Viewshed Fund to acquire in fee or easement properties that it deems to be valuable for protecting the viewshed from trails in the Bigelow Preserve. At BPL’s choosing, a modest percentage of these funds (e.g., 10-20%) could be used for viewshed trail maintenance activities in the Preserve.
(The statute quoted therein may be found in the Expedited Wind Permitting Law.)
Okay. If you’ve read this far, then you probably know where I’m going with this. But in case you don’t, I’ll spell it out.
The Bureau of Parks and Lands is a State agency which operates under the Maine Department of Conservation. The BPL is also listed (as is the Friends of the Highland Mountains, the Maine Appalachian Trail Club, and many others) as an ‘intervenor’ in the original Highland Wind, LLC permit application which was submitted one year ago.
The approval or denial of a permit for this wind turbine development will be decided by the Land Use Regulation Commission. That agency (LURC) is also an agency under the direction of the Department of Conservation.
I’ve spoken in the past about the ‘tangible benefits’ and the ‘mitigation’ which is allowable under the ‘Expedited Wind Permitting Law’. I’ve openly called this practice ‘State-sanctioned bribery’. Wind developers have been allowed to go into towns wherein they hope to construct these developments and offer ‘cash incentives’ to people and businesses in the hopes that they will support their projects. In fact, Maine law compels them to spend money in these communities. I have always believed this allowable practice is corrupt and morally wrong.
But here, in this revised application, the developers have descended to new depths. In an open and public document, Highland Wind LLC is blatantly offering a bribe of more than three-quarters of a million dollars to an agency of the State of Maine. They are offering an inducement to the same agency which will be deciding its fate—deciding whether or not to consent to their permit--the approval of which will allow Highland Wind, LLC to acquire millions of dollars of tax-payer subsidies.
This is illegal, is it not? Is this not immoral? To my way of thinking, it is unconscionable! The Maine Attorney General’s Office should—no, it must--investigate this. And then—the AG should prosecute to the fullest extent of the law.
Mum and Dad would have warmed my rear--at the very least--if I’d ever tried to pull off something so despicable—no matter what the scope. I call upon the Attorney General and the People of the State of Maine to take a stand.
This type of corruption has been over-looked and tolerated for far too long. Wind developers are desperate to acquire their cash rewards, and it has become apparent that there are no depths to which they will not sink.
I’m not willing to sit back while this great State goes down with them. It's time that we, the People, stood up and condemned this type of practice.
A friend just told me that--while it SHOULD be illegal--this type of payoff is NOT illegal, because the state of Maine allows it. Wind developers are required to pay a 'community benefit' of $4,000.00 per turbine per year (not each and every year, necessarily, but annualized) when they build a wind facility. I do not change my stance on this issue. That three-quarters of a million dollars is not being offered to Highland, or to a private organization which could invest the money in conservation or natural resource protection. That money is being offered as an inducement to the very State Agency which is deciding whether or not to grant Highland Wind LLC's permit. That is wrong. And if LURC takes this application under consideration, they will have a huge conflict of interest. I don't care if Maine has 'allowed' this type of thing in the past, or not. It's wrong.