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DISCLAIMER: This blog is published for general information only - it is not intended to constitute legal advice and cannot be relied upon by any person as legal advice. While we welcome you to contact our authors, the submission of a comment or question does not create an attorney-client relationship between the Firm and you.


Stetson II Begins Commercial Operations

First Wind’s Stetson II wind energy project near Danforth, Maine, began commercial operations today.  Stetson II is a 17-turbine expansion of the Stetson project, which initially went online on January 22, 2009.  In its entirety, the Stetson facility includes 55 1.5-megawatt wind turbines, for a total nameplate capacity of 82.5 megawatts of electrical generation.

Verrill Dana represented Stetson II before the Maine Land Use Regulation Commission in obtaining the project’s development permit and before the Maine Supreme Court in winning rapid dismissal of an abutter’s appeal.  On May 12, 2009, five weeks after the petition for judicial review was filed, the Maine Supreme Court dismissed the appeal of the Stetson II permit, enabling First Wind to start construction immediately and paving the way for today’s commencement of operations.     

Verrill Dana Attorneys Juliet Browne, Tony Calcagni, Jeff Selser and Gordon Smith worked on the Stetson II project.


Energy News Roundup: March 29-April 2

This week in the regional news roundup …

  • First Wind announces a future initial public offering.
  • The Kennebec Journal opines on the Maine Legislature’s proposal to have ratepayers pay premiums for energy from offshore wind.
  • Westfield, MA, gives a 15-year, $100 million property tax break as an incentive for development of a $426 million natural gas power plant.
  • Eddington, ME, joins the growing list of communities adopting wind turbine moratoria.

Have a suggestion for a New England energy news item?  Email the link to Katie Gray.


Verrill Dana Attorneys Recognized in 2010 Chambers & Partners USA

Congratulations to the twenty-nine Verrill Dana Attorneys recognized in the 2010 edition of Chambers & Partners USA: Leading Lawyers for Business.  Ten attorneys from Verrill Dana’s Energy Practice Group were recognized by Chambers, including:

  • Scott Anderson - Environment
  • Juliet Browne -  Environment
  • Anthony CalcagniReal Estate
  • James Cohen - Energy & Natural Resources
  • Mark GooginsCorporate/M&A
  • William Harwood - Energy & Natural Resources
  • Nora Healy - Energy & Natural Resources
  • James Kilbreth - Environment; Litigation: General Commercial
  • Christopher McLoon - Corporate/M&A
  • Jeffrey Selser - Real Estate: Timberland/Conservation

FERC Adopts New Civil Penalty Guidelines

FERC has issued a Policy Statement on penalty guidelines associated with its enforcement program that, according to FERC’s press release, will “add fairness, consistency and transparency to all FERC civil penalty determinations.” The penalty guidelines are modeled after the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines:

The Commission’s approach to determine penalties has evolved during the almost four-and-a-half years since EPAct 2005 first went into effect in August 2005… . We now believe that it is in the public interest to advance our past use of the Sentencing Guidelines’ principles by implementing a guidelines approach patterned after the Sentencing Guidelines, which apply factors in a focused manner to promote fairness and consistency, while still allowing for the discretion to depart from the indicated penalty where necessary.

The penalty guidelines are intended to change how FERC will determine civil penalties, but will use many factors that were previously considered by FERC, such as the seriousness of or remediation of a violation.

Although the guidelines calculate penalties based on a set of uniform factors, FERC retains discretion to impose a penalty that is not based on the guidelines.

The penalty guidelines also credit companies for self-reporting violations and for implementing robust compliance programs. The guidelines will apply to all future violations and any pending investigation where FERC’s enforcement staff has not entered into settlement negotiations.


FERC Directs NERC to Modify Standards Development Procedures

In a recent press release, FERC annouced that it was taking “action to protect the reliability of the nation’s transmission grid … by directing NERC to modify the procedures that it uses to develop mandatory bulk electric system reliability standards.” 

FERC’s concern grew out on the “balloting down” procedure, which allowed NERC stakeholders to veto a FERC directive by refusing to approve a new or modified reliability standard intended to comply with FERC’s directive.  In 2007, FERC issued a directive to NERC to require transmission and generation owners to determine the ratings of they bulk power systems.  Recently, when NERC attempted to develop a standard that would implement this requirement, it was vetoed by stakeholders. 

Concerned that NERC’s process does not ensure FERC compliance, FERC has directed NERC to file a proposal for modifying the process and to outline its compliance with FERC’s requirement that transmission and generation owners determine the ratings of their bulk power facilities.  FERC also set deadlines for NERC to comply with other outstanding FERC directives.


Board of Environmental Protection Rejects Abutters’ Appeal of Record Hill Wind Permit

The Maine Board of Environmental Protection voted unanimously on Thursday, March 18, to deny the appeal of Record Hill Wind LLC’s permit to build a 22-turbine wind energy project on a ridgeline in Roxbury, Maine.

In upholding the project’s DEP permit, the Board rejected the appellants’ claims related to noise, health, scenic, wildlife and other alleged impacts.

During the hearing, Board members questioned sound engineers regarding the accuracy of the computer modeling used to predict the project’s sound emissions.  The Board ultimately found that the project’s sound model was reliable and that the project would comply with state noise limits.  The Board likewise rejected allegations that the DEP and the Maine Center for Disease Control ignored potential health impacts.

Former Maine Governor Angus King, one of the principals of Record Hill Wind, testified at the hearing that the project would comply with the state’s sound limits.  Verrill Dana attorneys Juliet Browne and Gordon Smith represented Record Hill Wind in the appeal.   

The appellants have indicated that they plan to appeal the Board’s decision to the Maine Supreme Court.  Any appeal must be filed by April 19. 


Maine Supreme Court Dismisses Appeal of Rollins Wind Power Project

In the first case of its kind to reach the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, a lawsuit challenging a permit issued by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection for the construction of the Rollins Wind Power Project was dismissed on all counts on March 11, 2010.

The order affirmed a decision by the Board of Environmental Protection to deny an appeal filed by the Friends of Lincoln Lakes (“FOLL”) and several individuals challenging the Rollins Project permit.  The Board of Environmental Protection had unanimously rejected the FOLL appeal on the basis that the DEP had found that the Project would not have an undue adverse impact on the environment, specifically with respect to sound, health and wildlife. 

The Court noted that “FOLL essentially conceded at oral argument that the Board’s findings were supported by substantial evidence in the record.”

The Law Court also found that FOLL’s right to equal protection was not infringed by wind development laws that prevent the BEP from assuming original jurisdiction over applications for expedited wind energy projects and that allow for direct appeal of Department and Board decisions to the Maine Supreme Court.

The ruling was a victory for First Wind, which is developing the 60-megawatt Rollins Project in Lincoln, Maine, and surrounding towns.  Verrill Dana attorneys Juliet Browne, Scott Anderson, and Gordon Smith represented First Wind in the appeal. 

A copy of the decision, Friends of Lincoln Lakes v. Board of Environmental Protection, 2010 ME 18, — A.2d —, may be found here.