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The Roberts Trap is Sprung

By:  Bill Dunne
One of the most overlooked aspects of the year just ended is the vindication of Chief Justice John Roberts -- a vindication that showed up as the national catastrophe known as ObamaCare got rolling.  Roberts may have also doomed Hillary Clinton's chance to live in the White House again... click here to read whole editorial


Town Council Receives Draft Wind Power Ordinance


Tensions High Amidst a Perceived Inequity of Fairness Doctrine


photo/David Deschesne


By:  David Deschesne

Fort Fairfield Journal, September 2, 2015


   Last Fall, the Fort Fairfield town council conducted a public hearing regarding proposed commercial wind farm ventures in Fort Fairfield.  A moratorium on wind development was then passed until a comprehensive ordinance could be adopted.  In November, 2014 the Wind Energy Technical Review Committee was formed to research the safety, aesthetic and health concerns generated by commercial wind power in order to draft a proposed ordinance for the Fort Fairfield town council to consider.  The committee consisted of:  Jim Everett, Carl Young, Heather Cassidy, Brent Churchill, David McCrea, Phil Christensen, Todd Maynard, John Herold, Tim Goff and Richard Langley, as the chairman. 

   “It's clear from the names I read and the way the meetings went that there wasn't any predisposition.  I think the first month or two I couldn't get a read on anybody's thinking - what they brought to the table, anything,” Langley told the town council during their August 19, 2015 meeting. “As we went on people formulated their opinions but I honestly think when we came to this first session it is was wide open.  I don't think people had a predisposition.  As the sessions went along I would say that the votes on the key elements in the ordinance, which you're going to hear more about - not tonight, but you're going to hear more about - they weren't unanimous but they were a pretty strong consensus on their position.  I think it's a strong ordinance.  It's a job just to get through it.  It's fifty seven pages long and it's not exciting but it's a good strong ordinance.  It would be hard to do much better.  As a regulatory piece of legislation, we did a good job.  Nobody on that meeting had any economic interest or bias in the outcome.  Nobody stands to benefit or gain anything from the final product.” 

   The Wind Energy Technical Review Committee completed the preparation of the commercial wind energy ordinance at its August 10, 2015 meeting with a 9-1 vote in approval and forwarded it to the town council where it was introduced and accepted at their August 19 meeting.

   During the public comment period of the August town council meeting, Rick Shepherd rose to present comments on behalf of those who are opposed to commercial wind development in Fort Fairfield.  He was immediately shunted by town council chair, Jason Barnes.    “There's going to be lots of time for discussion on the topic I feel you're going to talk about,” Barnes told Shepherd.  “The proper place is at a public hearing.”

   Shepherd respectfully took the Chair's direction and kept his comments neutral.  “About a year ago we had a public uprising.  A lot of people showed up.  They brought their concerns to the town council, the town council reacted, created a moratorium at the same time they created twelve members of a committee,” said Shepherd during his allotted public comment time.  “To quote the minutes of the meeting, 'the twelve people selected are known to be fair-minded individuals known to share views in a respectful way and have a high level of integrity.'  They attended many meetings, I saw this in actuality, I couldn't agree with that statement more, they were all people whose reputations were far above reproach.  They have literally put in hundreds, probably over a thousand hours in drafting this ordinance and I certainly wouldn't like to see that die here tonight.” 

   Next up in the Public Comment period was Carl Young, who served on the Wind Energy Technical Review Board.  “I rise this evening to speak a comment on agenda item 10-a: Wind Energy Information Briefing.  When I first saw the agenda I found that to be an interesting title, being a member of the Wind Energy Development Committee.  Of course I had no idea who was presenting as it's one of the few items on the agenda that has no name,” Young told the town council.  “Consequently I had no idea what the subject matter might be.  The title implies that maybe it's information that the Committee could have used during its deliberations as far as preparing an ordinance.  Not knowing any of that information, I kept thinking about that and then I started questioning the timing of any wind energy information briefing.   The Committee started its work back in November of last year, as you recall.  We just finished our work here in early August.  In between there, there are eight months where the town council was holding regular meetings at which point such a briefing could have been given.  If the information was pertinent tonight, I assume it was pertinent then and assume it would be pertinent in the days and weeks ahead prior to perhaps a public hearing on the ordinance.  I just found it interesting, the timing, the committee having just finished its work on the ordinance.  The ordinance, I believe, agenda item 7-a is going to be the introduction of the ordinance tonight.  If just found it interesting that there would be a wind energy information briefing tonight, of all council meetings.  It would seem to me that a more appropriate time for that would have been at one of those eight council meetings or, better yet, at the public hearing which will be held sometime later concerning the ordinance.  So my purpose for speaking this evening is to ask that when the council arrives at agenda item 10-a - Wind Energy Information Briefing - that the council consider tabling that item and rescheduling that briefing to be combined perhaps with the public hearing or some other time that may be convenient for the council.”

   Later on in the council meeting, Sue LeVasseur introduced ordinance 15-04 for the Wind Energy Development where it was subsequently accepted with a unanimous vote of the council. 

   Bob Dorsey, president Aroostook Partnership for Progress, was then allowed to speak regarding the 'Wind Energy Information Briefing.'  “My job is to promote economic development for all of Aroostook County.  I care deeply about the County and Fort Fairfield, as you know,” said Dorsey.  “The Wall Street Journal says one in three counties in the United States are dying.  We're all having the same problem with demographics, aging, lack of opportunity, growth, etc.  We've got $1 billion in wind development going on in Aroostook County and we have potential for $4 billion of potential opportunity in the future.  Natural Resources is our biggest potential.    3 million acres of forest, about 900,000 acres of tillable land, and wind and renewable energy, biomass is the third big resource of this county.  In the last three years there's been over $350 million and over 440 jobs created in Aroostook County.  Not very much of that has happened in Fort Fairfield.  I would sure like to see more of it happen in the future.  Fort Fairfield has over 5,000 acres of fallow or underutilized land.  My purpose here today is to introduce EDPR and hope we can keep the opportunity to keep the door open in the future.  Technology marches on, things get better so that six, eight, ten years from now if Fort Fairfield has the opportunity to work with a developer that door is still open, we don't close it prematurely.”

   EDP Renewables, formerly Horizon Wind, is currently developing the $600 million #9 mountain effort.  Their project manager, Katie Chapman then rose to speak for the remainder of the information briefing which began to appear to be a pitch for wind power.  At this point, town council member, John Herold, who attended one of these “information” briefings in Mars Hill last winter, rose to voice his objection to the briefing on general principle.   “Mr. Chairman, may I interrupt this proceeding please.  I would like to make reference to Mr. Young's statement at the public comment period at the beginning of the meeting.  I believe what we're seeing here is not an informational session which, as Mr. Young so eloquently stated, [it] could very well have been presented to the council or to the committee that was building the ordinance when this was taking place.  The committee that built the ordinance offered to give a presentation this evening to describe the ordinance to the public and to the council.  We were told, because I sat on the committee, that's not the appropriate time to do it, do it at the public hearing.  As such that's what the committee plans to do.   I see advocacy coming here rather than information -  If it's advocacy, or if it's information that could have been given to the committee or the council prior to this time, either way I would like to recommend that we respectfully request that Mr. Dorsey and Mrs. Chapman postpone their presentation until a public hearing is scheduled and give it at that time.  I also want to say that I am not trying to squelch or silence anybody.  I think anybody that wants to come before the council and give information or say anything at all ought to be perfectly free to do so.  On the other hand I think there's a fairness in it and equality issue to be had here too because we had people on one side, if you will, with one side of information were told to postpone it until the public hearing.  So I would like to respectfully request that you do the same.” 

   Katie Chapman, the Project Manager for EDP Renewables said her presentation was not new information, “This is information that was made available to the committee.  I would respectfully request the opportunity to present it.”

    Council Chair, Barnes then responded,   “I am not opposed to hearing, and some of us would like to hear what you have to say this evening.  We need to put a limitation on the amount of time, it needs to be brief.  I for one would like to hear at least a presentation.” 

   Noting the voluminous stack of 3-ring binders Chapman had in-tow,  Herold then noted regarding the proposed brevity of the presentation;  “Well, sir, if I see the three volumes weighing probably some ten pounds in this lady's hands I would like to gain an understanding of how a sensible, somewhat comprehensive presentation of that material may be made in ten or fifteen minutes.” 

   Town council member, Bob Kilcollins then voiced his support for postponing the pro-wind presentation to a more suitable time;  “I think personally on such a big agenda on such a short time limit that we are on, fair and unfair is a balance, I think they should get all the time they would need, the public hearing really would be the place to do it, to accurately address that information,” said Kilcollins.  “At this time all we really did is recognize the ordinance and the public hearing really is where the education behind both sides should be approached.  I feel that if it's accurately done that would really be the place to do it.” 

   Fort Fairfield town manager, Jim Risner then noted the purpose of the upcoming public hearing and suggested the pro-wind information presentation may not be apropos to the hearing.  “The public hearing is only going to address the ordinance.  It's not going to address, 'I think we should do this, or we should have done that.'  It's just the ordinance.  So, if someone wants to come and talk about wind power in general they should be told that's not the forum to do it in.  If the council wants to do that at their September meeting, that's the council's prerogative but I think it's very important to let the public know that the public hearing on the eighth is just on the ordinance so we can keep the comments very pointed for understanding what people's concerns are with the ordinance.”  

   Barnes then polled the other council members on their thoughts.  Sue LeVasseur said; “I'd like to hear what they have to say but it doesn't matter to me when I hear it, but I definitely want to hear it.  September 8, or tonight, it's immaterial to me.”  Dave McCrea; “It's not really a place for debate at a public hearing.  It's a place for comments that will be recorded and will be information for this council to digest and help us make up our mind.  So I think that while comments pertinent to our ordinance would certainly be fair from anybody, that being said I think that if there's information that somebody would like to share now I wouldn't have a problem with a ten or fifteen minute presentation.  It's just information.”

   At this point, Barnes said,  “I'd like to proceed.”

   Phil Christensen, who also sat on the Wind Power Technical Review Committee then rose in an uncharacteristic, very vocal opposition to the chair's decision.  “I'm offended.  You asked Mr. Shepherd to keep it quiet, keep it cool, not say much.  Now, I apologize for this outburst but you asked him to not say much.  Now, what possesses you to want these people to give us a speech about the pros of wind power?” 

“The public comment period was just that,” said Barnes.   “This was on the agenda, planned for and these people were given up to fifteen minutes to present a brief summary this evening and I'd like very much to proceed.”

   Chapman then proceeded to give a noticeably abbreviated sales presentation on her employer, EDP Renewables,  consisting of handouts and a introduction of her family, where they live and how wonderful the wind energy business has been for them.  She dutifully promoted EDP Renewables and tried to explain to the council what they could expect in negotiations with a developer in the future.  “EDP Renewables, formerly Horizon Wind currently has over 30 wind farms operating in the United States.  We have 22 offices, we have an office that is staffed full time in Presque Isle.  We are the third largest operator of wind power in the United States.  We really do start to finish wind development.  That is really a big part of why I work for this company,” said Chapman.  “Project design is determined by site characteristics, but also by discussions with land owners, community members and leaders and applicable regulations.  So, the land owner has the option to participate or not.”

   In the conversation outside the town office, after the meeting, it was the general consensus of those in attendance that if Rick Shepherd was not allowed to give a presentation on the cons of wind development, EDP Renewables should not have been allowed to give a presentation promoting their company.  After hearing Mrs. Chapman's presentation it was also concluded by the audience that her presentation would have been more suited to a comment period during a public hearing on an actual wind farm proposal - which has not even been publicly offered yet - rather than during a town council meeting that just saw a draft wind ordinance accepted.

   The public hearing on the proposed ordinance will be on Tuesday, September 8 at 6pm, at the Fort Fairfield Community Center.  The hearing is only on the ordinance, not on the pros or cons of wind development in Fort Fairfield as no commercial wind project has been officially put before the town council.  For information on how to obtain a copy of the ordinance, contact the Fort Fairfield town office at 472-3800.

   To hear the full audio of the August 19, 2015 Fort Fairfield town council meeting, click here.


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