Word master of his own domain?

It isn’t easy to find out what Gov. Paul LePage thinks about many issues. He doesn’t hold regular press conferences, gives few interviews, and his staff steers him away from further impromptu encounters with reporters, such as the one last year in which he made the nationally notorious suggestion to the NAACP that they “kiss my butt.”

So the governor’s monthly “Capitol for a Day” visits around the state, in emulation of the milder-mannered John McKernan, his Republican predecessor, have become important ways to read the tea leaves. And his recent appearance in Newport has been generating news for more than a week.

At the forefront was the remark that state employees are “corrupt,” a characterization most governors might want to amend. It’s one thing to attack the union – a page from the national GOP playbook -- and quite another to slam people who work for you. Instead, LePage doubled down, writing to state employees to say that they were not all disloyal, but many have been “corrupted by the bureaucracy.”

Staff attempts claiming that LePage wasn’t talking about criminal behavior are hard to square with the plain meaning of the word, nor is he likely to heed requests from GOP legislators that he apologize. This is not a man given to second thoughts.

Almost lost in that furor was his remark that public schools have “failed miserably” in preparing students for jobs. Surely it was possible to make the point without offending every schoolteacher in Maine.

Even farther below the radar was another answer that might be even more troubling, given its potential effect on public policy.

LePage was asked about energy prices, and quickly reverted to his campaign statement that Maine electricity rates are above the national average. This is true, but it’s been true for 30 years, and LePage never mentions that Maine’s rates are also the lowest in New England – or that they’ve just dropped 10 percebt, thanks largely to plunging natural gas prices. He might even take credit; a welcome bit of positive thinking.

Instead, LePage made another abrupt turn and blamed windpower for high electric rates.

Here’s what he said: “We have some groups in Maine that are greedy. We have people in Maine who say that wind is the answer. And it is the answer for people who lobby for wind. Wind is costing us dearly. It’s costing us jobs, it’s costing us investment and it’s costing us big.”

Unlike the general point about energy costs, every single part of that statement is untrue. It appears that the governor of Maine doesn’t understand how electric rates are set, and how price competition works.

At the time when any new generating source comes on line, it must match the “market clearing price,” which in Maine has been set by natural gas. The wind turbines now spinning on Kibby Mountain,  Stetson Ridge, Spruce Mountaint and a dozen other sites all met that test when they were approved for contracts by the Public Utilities Commission. The plummeting price of natural gas has, in fact, slowed wind development, even though all its costs are upfront, and the “fuel” is free, unlike natural gas, where prices will rise again as industry switches from expensive oil to cheaper gas.

Instead of “costing us jobs” wind projects have created them. Instead of “costing us investment,” it’s put $1 billion into the Maine economy, and could provide another $1 billion over the next three years, now that the technology has matured and Maine has become the industry’s Northeast leader.

Perhaps it’s just that LePage is jealous of Angus King, former wind developer and current U.S. Senate candidate, who’s a more successful businessman and a far more popular politician, and who LePage referred to in Newport as “king of the wind cartel.”

Still, it’s startling that, in his desire to find someone to blame for the state’s recently-dismal jobs and income growth, LePage not only fudges the facts but inverts them.

Just 16 months in office, LePage has reached the Humpty Dumpty phase. In "Alice in Wonderland," the heroine has a brief debate with the nursery rhyme character.

“When I use a word,” Humpty says, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.” When Alice questions whether words can really be stretched that far, Humpty replies, “The question is which is to be master – that’s all.”

And that does seem be the issue. Inhabitants of the next “Capitol for a Day” had better be ready.

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Alice Barnett's picture

page 19 + 20 Maine Wind energy Development assessment. OEIS

The MPUC reported on February 13, 2012 that the first six months of the Rollins
contract added $953,000 in above market costs to electric rates (~ $1.9 million per year).

http://www.maine.gov/oeis/Wind/Binder1.pdf

http://www.maine.gov/oeis/alternativeenergy.html

2. Transmission restraints will need to be eliminated so that Maine wind generation can
reach the New England market. The Western Maine Renewable Integration Study
(WMRIS) determined that integrating an additional 743 MW of wind in addition to the
362 MW of existing generation in the region would require a transmission investment of
$553 million. While there is a total of 400 MW of potential wind development in the
Maine Public Service (MPS) service area in northern Maine, there will need to be a
transmission investment needed to “connect” to the ISO-NE system.

$553 million. yikes

Hart Daley's picture

New York Standstill

Just to add to Brad's comments, I just travelled to Auburn NY today from Dixfield. I had to drive by (2) large wind projects in NY. On my way in, 4 of the 30 plus turbines were turning. On my way back this afternoon, only 2 were spinning. Must be a ton of wind electricity being generated out there too!

Mike DiCenso's picture

windsprawl

Doug claims wind power does not drive up energy costs. Is he conveniently excluding transmission costs from the equation? Maine would not need the expense of overbuilt trans. lines except for the bursts of unpredictable wind. How does this not cost the ratepayers? I wonder if he believes Enron didn't manipulate energy costs years ago. Doug accusing LePage of "fudging facts" and "inverting them" seems to be a case of the pot calling the kettle black. These supporters of industrial wasteland make me wonder what they have against natural skylines and wooded mountaintops.

Brad Blake's picture

Mr. DeConzo is Right

As soon as the PUC approved the $1.4 billion Maine Power Reliability Project, Iberdrola/CMP started to tout it as necessary for the build out of industrial wind projects. Prior to that PUC approval, they gave every reason on earth other than wind power to justify grossly overbuilding the trunk transmission line from Orrington to Elliot. To meet the local distribution needs, we might have required some upgrades that should have been done as part of a multi-year capital improvement plan. To meet the local distribution needs, it was totally unnecessary to build a new 345kv line, as the local grid operates just fine on 115kv lines. The sole reason for adding more than $1 billion to our costs is the few days a year a fickle trickle of wind power surges and the line has to have the capacity for handling this rare occurance. We have been bamboozled, Mr. Rooks! You want to pay my Iberdrola/CMP bill when I retire and the full cost of wind gets factored in?

Brad Blake's picture

Rooks Shills for Wind

Alan Michka, you are far more polite than I am. Doug Rooks shamelessly shills for wind. He has always had his nose firmly planted up Angus King's arse. I guess the guy just likes to defend losers.

The response in defense of wind is as rife with inaccuracies as anything the Governor says off the cuff. The Governor is alarmed about the trend that fulfilling the arbitrary RPS standards in all those RGGI states ends up with Maine becoming a turbine plantation. That will be devastating to our multi-billion tourism industry and the vacation home real estate market.

When the PTC ends, it will slow down wind development by a lot, but as long as states stupidly cling to the bad public policy of forcing electricity utilities to have percentages of renewables, we are setting ourselves up for taking on wind at its cost, not the lower cost of the wholesale market that is now driven by natural gas.

BTW, Doug, it is not Kibby, Stetson, Spruce, and a "dozen other sites". The current sad toll on Maine's mountains are: Mars Hill, Stetson, Rollins, Kibby, Record Hill, and Spruce, with the two small (3 turbines each) sites on Vinalhaven and at Freedom. Get it right if you are going to shill for an industry that wouldn't exist without unduly high (per MWH) subsidies, selling Enron-inspired RECs, and the heinous mandates from the RPS.

BTW, as an avid hiker, today I hiked in to Record Hill to witness the travesty of Angus King's project first hand. There was no wind up there all afternoon. The project contributed not a single electron to the New England grid today. Photos will be posted to www.windtaskforce.org

Gary Steinberg's picture

The truth about costly "Industrial Wind Complexes",

LePage just articulates what Rooks and his wind  obfuscators and deceivers  do not want anyone to hear.
Wind is free, but the Industrial wind complexes are not.

They are only called “ wind farms” because Rooks and friends are milking the subsidies and the PTC's and other financial benefits from us , the taxpayers .

From their costly rare earth metals (from mainly China), to mountaintop  environmental destruction, wind is very costly to this society.

 In the attempt to harness low density wind to create electricity, all along the way, the costs mount, and the dollars are dense indeed .

 All winds costs are upfront Rooks declares, but doesn't say where the money comes from.

I suppose we taxpayers  are the ones who pay the upfront costs and  prevent the likes of snake-oil salesman King from taking the risk.  First Wind  and other subsidy scammers of this unsavory  hedging plot and risk lowering LLC creators  take our money and laugh all to the their foreign accounts

From the billions in unneeded wind  transmission lines ,  to the damage of  abutter land  value and health consequences from infra-sound to the low job creation at high unit cost, wind is not cheap for anyone.

The minor benefits are overridden by the numerous costs to society in the long run.

 But why worry about this, when tens of millions can be scammed to the elitists from a fad that will be dead in this decade?
 The natural gas will flow, and the oil production will grow, and the wind will blow.
The subsidy money is finite however, as Congress now realizes this Mr. Rooks.

LePage is a breath of honest fresh air .

It is what we get from an item that determines its worth, and wind is much better at blowing subsidy money than making electrons flow.

Congress now realizes this, and the funds will hopefully stop flowing this year to this fad.

Wind is one of the most costly fads  this society has created in recent history .
Only a the elite benefit, and we pay for it, unless we smarten up, and that is what is occurring now.
Now we all know how some undeserving  wealthy leverage and make money, they put the risk you and I.

What Rooks really dislikes is that this governor is very public in spreading the truth, and the truth will set us free(and lower our taxes).

Wind Industrial scammers do not like such a public voice barging into their inside game.

But Mr. Rooks, the game is up, and Congress is listening.
see:
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000142405270230359240457736424400639142...

Alan Michka's picture

Rooks a "master" of spin for wind industry

I've read numerous pieces by Doug Rooks, and though he's a fine writer, he's no slave to objectivity when addressing Maine wind development matters.

Even here, he scolds the governor for careless speech, yet crafts his own statements on wind power to give them an aura of legitimacy while keeping reality just out of view. The fact is, wind power cannot compete with the current low price of natural gas - even his often quoted Angus King admitted this. Thus, wind power must have artificial price supports in order to remain viable while it waits for natural gas prices to quadruple or so - something experts believe is not likely to happen for quite awhile. Proponents often like to say that wind power bids in at zero and is a price taker. Sure, but they can't make any money doing that at today's gas prices. So they have to have other means to extract money from ratepayers and taxpayers through government mandated programs. Without these programs, wind power withers and blows away. Rooks doesn't mention any of these other price and market supports given to wind power.

He also doesn't mention how much of that "billion" dollar investment was actually spent outside of Maine (it's a very significant portion), or how much of Maine wind developer/operator's property taxes are being returned to them through TIF arrangements (about 50% or more for most projects).

He also doesn't mention that most of that new job creation is temporary and will dissipate when the turbine construction boom does the same. As a high ranking house member said last year, the only real Maine beneficiaries of wind development are the people building them. Beyond that, there's little there for Maine, in general.

Rooks is really in no position to be criticizing others for their creative use of language. He's mastered the art of spin in writing his wind advocacy pieces so that they suggest, erroneously, that he's a neutral observer.

Alice Barnett's picture

RESCIND THE RPS AND REGGIE MANDATES

Legislature Adopts Portfolio Standard

On May 29, 1997, Governor Angus S. King signed into law a bill to restructure the state's electric power industry. As of March 1, 2000, the state's investor-owned utilities will no longer own power plants. These utilities will continue to be regulated as transmission and distribution providers, and retail customers will be able to choose their electricity provider in a competitive market. Recovery of stranded costs has been referred to the PUC for adjudicatory proceedings by July 1, 1999.

The law establishes a renewable portfolio standard as a component of power provider licensing, which requires each competitive electricity provider to include no less than 30% of its supply from renewable resources, including hydro. The law also requires the PUC to establish information disclosure standards for competitive electricity providers so that consumers can make informed market choices and to establish a program allowing retail customers to make voluntary contributions to fund renewables-related research and development (R&D).

PLEASE WRITE TO YOUR LEGISLATORS AND TELL THEM TO STOP THIS FOLLY

RESCIND THE RPS AND REGGIE MANDATES

Alice Barnett's picture

RENEWABLE MANDATE ..A REGRESSIVE TAX ???

Gouged by the Wind Renewable fuel mandates are raising electricity prices in the states. May 4, 2012

Politicians keep promising to reduce energy prices, but they keep ignoring one easy step: repeal renewal energy standards. Twenty-nine states have these rules requiring local utilities to purchase between 20% and 33% of their electric power from renewable sources. They were enacted over the past decade when lawmakers bought into the fad about cheap "clean energy." Their real effect has been to force utilities to pay above-market prices for electricity, which means higher electric bills for consumers.

No state has learned that lesson the hard way more than Minnesota. In 2007 the legislature mandated that utilities ramp up their renewables to 12% this year and 25% by 2025.

The Minnesota Rural Electric Association, which represents about 50 small utilities serving about 650,000 rural residents, reports that its members lost more than $70 million in 2011 because of the high cost of wind power. "Right now we're paying for wind power we don't need, we can't use and can't sell," says association executive director Mark Glaess.

.

PLEASE READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE AT :

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303592404577364244006...

WHO STARTED THIS ABSURDITY IN MAINE ??

Brad Blake's picture

Baldacci is to blame

Former Gov. Baldacci, desperate to find some legacy for a failed 8 years in office, caved to all the Yuppies he surrounded himself with to "go green" and bring in an industry that would help Maine economically. Or so he thought, not knowing he was unleashing an environmentally devastating farce. First it was his "Governor's Task Force on Wind Power", hand picked and with a closed process ensuring that, sure enough, the outcome was a glowing recommendation to destroy Maine with the folly of wind power. Included in that group were people like Peter Didisheim of the NRCM, which had already been pushing wind power over protecting the environment; Rep. Stacey Fitts, who shills for the industry in the Legislature and has steadfastly blocked any attempt through the Energy, Utilities, & Technology committee to modify the wind law; and Juliet Browne, the leading lawyer for First Wind and others, who's husband, Rep. Jon Hinck has worked with Fitts in blocking any attempt through the Energy, Utilities, & Technology committee to modify the wind law.

The Task Force work done, the task turned to creating the law, with Juliet Browne again having a hand in that endeavor. In the waning days of the Short Term of the Legislature in April 2008, with an emergency preamble that sounds like Chicken Little warning that the world will end without it, PL 661 was passed. Passed by an unknowing and unquestioning legislature, with the Democrats in lock step with whatever Baldacci wanted. Passed in 15 days, meeting the bare minimums for any public notice. Passed without any debate. What was passed is one of the most anti-environmental pieces of legislation ever, complete with the heinous section the "Expedited Wind Permitting". A law that specifically states that one industry gets favoritism over any and all environmental laws Maine has. A law that severely curtails citizens' rights. A law that specifically states that scenic impact cannot be a consideration except for a very narrow scope of scenic places of state or national significance.

So there is your answer, folks. We are seeing turbines as tall as 45 story Boston skyscrapers going up on blasted away, leveled, and scalped ridgelines all over this beautiful state, for a source of electricity that is costly, unpredictable, unreliable, and we simply do not need. The state of Maine has been scammed---big time. We need to repeal PL 661 in the next Legislature.

Alice Barnett's picture

Kibby

Who pays for maintainence????

Kibby uses Vestas V90's.....and for many months now we have heard rumors coming out of the Eustis area that the Kibby Project is having massive gearbox/generator problems.

http://washpost.bloomberg.com/Story?docId=1376-M3DUER6TTDSO01-6MJHBJJ6EA...

" Vestas said it was earmarking an additional 40 million euros to pay for extra maintenance, repair or replacement of malfunctioning bearings in the gearboxes of 376 of its V90 turbines"

Vestas Slumps as Loss Almost Doubles on Wind Turbine Faults

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