Saturday, December 17, 2011

"Takings" issues with fracking wells too

Last month I heard about a bill that may (or may not) yet appear for debate in our Maine legislature limiting the amount of value in land property that can be reduced by state and presumably local environmental regulation to 50%. This constitutional "takings" measure would dramatically affect all our state's many local restrictive ordinances on wind turbines.

It seems a similar question has arisen in areas where shale gas development has taken place or been threatened.

You might expect me to be in favor of a bill that would allow more rapid development of Maine's wind power resources, but I'm not. The "takings" bill opens a Pandora's box of environmental regulatory questions, and if it passes will require reconsideration of every hard-won environmental protection from shoreline zoning to water and air quality regulation.

It might have been better had the anti-wind activists who passed these local ordinances thought through the measures properly, instead of passing suspect "boilerplate" from town to town, badgering the various planning boards to accept these flawed texts, and then passing the ordinances in special town meetings at which only a minority of townsfolk ever show up. Some of these ordinances require sound limits for wind turbines that are actually below the ambient sound level of ordinary Maine woods. Others require setbacks that are impossible to achieve anywhere in the town.

Impossible to measure, impossible to regulate. And, as we have begun to see with this takings bill, likely to stimulate an almost-as-irrational backlash.

Now we have that very backlash in the "Takings" bill, with conservative activists using the constitution as a massive wrecking bar to undo not only the anti-wind ordinances, but also our many other environmental protections.

An interesting dialectic, isn't it. And entirely predictable.

Interesting too, that our difficulty with siting energy facilities extends in much the same way to natural gas wells on the Marcellus shale.

Everybody wants energy. Few wish for intrusive energy developments in their own back yard.

But some kind of energy facility has to go somewhere.

You pays your money, and you takes your choice:

Wind turbines in Maine....
Hydropower plants in Quebec
Fracking in PA, NY, and ND
Mountaintop removal coal mines in KN and WV
Nuclear plants in NY and elsewhere
Albertan tar sands
Solar power plants in the western desert

Each has its own, very effective protest movement.

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