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Entries in Courts (16)


Energy News Roundup: March 30-April 5

This week in regional energy news …


Energy News Roundup: March 2-March 8

This week in regional energy news …


Is a Floating Wind Turbine Subject to Regulation as a Vessel?

Analysis from guest blogger and Verrill Dana litigation attorney Ben Ford.  You can read Ben’s posts at Verrill Dana’s maritime law blog, Law at the Water Line.

Portland, Me., is the gateway to the North Atlantic.  Every day in the winter, ships arrive caked in ice from the frozen spray driven by the winds of the Gulf of Maine.  The winds that give these ships their white frosting are the same winds that may one day give this region an economic and environmental boost.  Plans are underway for an array of floating wind turbines designed to harness these powerful winds.  Yet, as with any new technology, floating wind turbines raise a host of legal and regulatory challenges.  Some of those challenges turn on a deceptively simple question: Is a wind turbine a ‘vessel’ under the law?

Until recently, the answer was maybe yes, maybe no. But a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in Lozman v. City of Riviera Beach may have changed all that.  On the surface, Lozman appears to be about whether a house boat, with no means of propulsion and no steering gear, is a “vessel” under federal law.  However, the implications of the decision affect everything from riverboat casinos, to floating wind turbines.  The distinction between a “structure” and a “vessel” can have serious legal implications affecting employment relationships, insurance, financing, and other regulations.     

When the city of Riviera Beach, Fla., failed to evict Fane Lozman from a city-owned marina, the city turned to federal law and sued Lozman for the cost of providing “necessities” to his “vessel” in the form of dockage fees and utility charges.  Nobody disputed the definition of “necessities” but was the houseboat a “vessel” under federal law?

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Law Court Dismisses Appeal of Oakfield Wind Power Project

In a memorandum of decision issued yesterday, the Maine Supreme Court dismissed an appeal (Docket # BEP-12-225) of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection license issued to First Wind for the construction of the 150-MW Oakfield Wind Power project.  The opinion, issued just two weeks after the Court heard oral argument, did not reach the merits of the appeal, which consisted of a single claim that the visual impact standard applied to wind power projects is unconstitutionally vague.  Instead, the Court found that project opponents had failed to preserve the claim for appeal because it had not been raised during the DEP’s year-long review of the project.  As a result, the appellants had waived the right to raise the claim before the Court.  In any case, the Court will have an opportunity to rule on the constitutionality of the Wind Energy Act visual impact standard in the very near future, as the same claim has been raised in a pending Law Court appeal of the DEP license issued to Patriot Renewables for the construction of the Saddleback Ridge Wind project in and around Carthage, Maine.  First Wind was represented in the appeal by Verrill Dana Attorneys Juliet Browne and Gordon Smith.         


Law Court Hears Oral Argument in Appeal of Oakfield Wind Power Project

The Maine Supreme Court heard oral argument yesterday in an appeal of the Department of Environmental Protection license issued to First Wind for the construction of a 150-megawatt wind power project in and around Oakfield, Maine.  The single issue raised in the appeal was the project opponents’ claim that the statutory visual impact standard applied by the DEP was unconstitutionally vague.  Counsel for the project opponents faced an uphill task as the Court recently held in Uliano v. Board of Environmental Protection that a similar, less detailed visual impact standard contained in the Natural Resources Protection Act was sufficiently specific to withstand a void for vagueness challenge.  The justices appeared skeptical of the opponents’ legal claim, at one point noting that that the statutory standard’s requirement that visual impacts be “reasonable” is an objective concept found throughout the law.  The Court also questioned whether the opponents had waived their right to raise the issue of unconstitutional vagueness because they had not raised it during the administrative appeal to the Maine Board of Environmental Protection.  First Wind was represented in the appeal by Verrill Dana Attorneys Juliet Browne and Gordon Smith. 


Energy News Roundup: August 18-August 24

This week in regional energy news …


Energy News Roundup: July 21-July 27