Sunday, January 16, 2011
Red Tape Venom and Vitriol
Below is an op-ed from today's edition of the Sun Journal. Frankly, I was stunned by the emotion evident in this opinion piece. This is not the type of balanced and level-headed article one expects to read in a newspaper:
Don't tell me you sold all your shares in Red Tape International, the leading producer of the red tape used in government.
Sure, it made sense to sell at the top of the market, knowing every governor in the country has vowed to reduce or eliminate its use, including our own.
Who knew, however, that while the governor was preparing to burn great piles of it on the Blaine House lawn, some legislators would be intent on wrapping more job-killing red tape around a seemingly bright spot in the state's economy.
Perhaps the market for red tape is not yet dead.
Several lawmakers already have submitted legislation designed to slow down and add more steps to locating a wind turbine in Maine.
Several weeks ago, former governor and current wind-power developer Angus King visited our offices to talk about the project he hopes to complete in Highland Plantation.
King came armed with a couple of props in a box, two 6-inch binders stuffed with paper, representing the research his firm has generated to meet state standards and requirements.
The cost of that paperwork: $5 million. That's all money spent before a project is approved or sited, money that would simply be lost by the company's investors if the project does not proceed.
King wasn't complaining about that, simply making a point that wind projects are not spread willy-nilly across the landscape.
The new legislation has not yet taken shape, but it is expected to have the usual components of red tape — more steps, more time and more expense.
It has been filed on behalf of wind-power opponents who really don't care how projects are killed, as long as they are killed.
Ironically, Maine's Wind Energy Act of 2008 was an attempt by Gov. LePage's predecessor, Gov. John Baldacci, to cut red tape, speed up the process and create jobs for Mainers.
It sets up limited areas in Maine where a well-defined process can be used for siting wind projects. In other words, it was designed to cut red tape.
Here's where you can go; here's what you need to do. Simple.
What's happening now is more illustrative than surprising and shows why red tape always multiplies.
Like many issues government handles, this one is contentious. If a legislator or even a constituent doesn't want something to happen, there is always another study, report, hearing or regulation that can be done.
It is always better to have more information than less, right? And the Legislature has always been generous with its red tape.
Time, however, is money. And, of course, money is money. Every new step, new report, new expert or new hearing adds a little delay or expense to a project.
Until, of course, you reach a tipping point where the project becomes unfeasible.
In 2008, Maine made a decision that was, and continues to be, supported by Maine people — push forward with wind power.
If the current Legislature thinks wind power isn't good for Maine, it can repeal the Wind Energy Act.
What it should not do is simply wrap wind power in more red tape.
And here, below, was my gut-reaction to this op-ed, which I submitted as an online comment to the article, as well as sending an abbreviated copy to the newspaper for its printed edition. Chances are slim-to-none that they will print it. We've learned that the hard way.
This is one of the most biased and offensive op-eds I've read on the very serious topic of mountaintop industrial wind. And it shows exactly how worried the wind lobby is.
Yes, John Baldacci wanted to get rid of red tape for his wind lobby pals. It was job security for this former governor who hopes to keep his 'hand' in the renewable energy field. It was protection for his friends who make millions from our tax dollars. It was self-protection, all the way. They'd suffered a loss at Redington, and the wind lobby wanted to make sure that that did not happen again.
It worked, too, didn't it? How many wind developers have been denied a permit since that time?
I find it unconscionable that this newspaper expects us to feel bad for Angus King. And has Mr. King really, honestly spent $5 Million dollars? I'd like to see proof-- for just a couple of months ago, he was quoted as having spent $2Million. Could the $5 Million be the triggering number to ensure he receives our subsidy money? Before the editorial board uses figures in the millions of dollars, they owe it to their readers to require proof. And besides... are we seriously supposed to NOT oppose a misguided and terribly expensive plan simply because one developer made a poor judgement call and invested in something which is ONLY a good investment due to the government's largesse with tax-payer money? OUR money? Mr. King's partner, Rob Gardiner, stated in a Highland meeting that wind energy could not exist without huge subsidies, and would not support itself. Sorry. I can't raise a lot of sympathy for wealthy individuals who are selling Maine's quality of place in order to fill their pockets. Mr. King should have thought ahead and considered the independent thinking and common sense of those people whom he led for 8 years.
Why the venom and vitriol in this op-ed? Why would the editorial staff or the publisher have a problem with Mainers trying to work within the system established for us? We were not allowed to have a 'say' before our government decided to foist an expensive and dangerous wind energy plan on the state of Maine. The wind lobby has been brainwashing the public for years. When citizens decided to look into the FACTS about industrial wind, we were stunned. The paltry benefits this plan would provide are greatly overshadowed by the huge negative impacts. Regular citizens, without the wind industry's money for media blitzes and advertising campaigns, have been trying to educate our fellow Mainers. We have few options and outlets. We speak in meetings. We write letters to the editor. We share resources and distribute literature and talk to our neighbor. We ask people not to believe US, but to do their own research. We believe that knowledge is power, and power is something that our industry-controlled government has slowly taken away from us.
Why would this newspaper castigate Mainers for trying to change a policy which we truly believe to be one of the biggest mistakes-- and yes, scams--to come along?
The staff is attempting to influence our new governor, without a doubt. By manipulating his desire to cut 'red tape', they are hoping that he and the new Legislature will disregard these protective bills which will be coming up for vote. In my opinion, this is a low blow, especially coming from a news medium.
Billions of dollars are at stake. Wind opponents are showing their courage and conviction, and the bills which have been submitted are there for all to see. The wind lobby is nervous, and they will be stepping up their PR and attempting to scare Mainers into supporting mountaintop industrial wind. Expect to see ads saying that 'wind' will counter the effects of globla warming... something which experts are showing to be a misleading claim. Expect to have them say that wind energy will increase our national security. Poppycock. When does a nation need the most power, and the most reliable power? Where there is an emergency! Increasing our load of unreliable and intermittent and very expensive electricity will certainly not help America protect her borders. Expect the wind lobby to try to make us feel guilty. Frightened. Irresponsible if we don't support their plan, and brave, 'green' citizens if we do. Expect them to tout jobs... temporary construction jobs, and short term local 'booms' during development. Those same 330 construction workers would be kept gainfully employed in repairing our infrastructure, which is needed to bring millions of people to Maine to spend their tourism dollars. Once our iconic mountains are covered with 350 miles of 40 story turbines, those tourist will go elsewhere. This wind plan is self-perpetuated loss for Maine's economy in the LONG-term.
This op-ed is just the beginning. As Mainers see more of these types of sarcastic and anger-filled articles, they can rest assured: the wind lobby and its supporters are getting worried and desperate. Mainers are known for staring down the bullies and doing what is smart, and what is RIGHT. I urge you to educate yourselves on the topic of mountaintop wind energy. The truth will blow you away.
Lexington Twp., Maine
www.windaction.org, www.windtaskforce.org, www.highlandmts.org, www.stopillwind.org, www.realwindinfoforme.com, www.windfarmrealities.org ... and many, many more.