An Act To Protect Maine's Scenic Character
Sec. 1. 35-A MRSA §3451, sub-§§1-D and 8-B are enacted to read:
Sec. 2. 35-A MRSA §3451, sub-§9, ¶D, as enacted by PL 2007, c. 661, Pt. A, §7, is amended to read:
(1) One of the 66 great ponds located in the State's organized area identified as having outstanding or significant scenic quality in the "Maine's Finest Lakes" study published by the Executive Department, State Planning Office in October 1989; or
(2) One of the 280 great ponds in the State's unorganized or deorganized areas designated as outstanding or significant from a scenic perspective in the "Maine Wildlands Lakes Assessment" published by the Maine Land Use Regulation Commission in June 1987; or
(3) One of the great ponds in the studies cited in subparagraphs (1) and (2) that is identified as having both outstanding fisheries and wildlife resources and on which there is located at least one commercial sporting camp that was established prior to 2007;
Sec. 3. 35-A MRSA §3451, sub-§10-A is enacted to read:
Sec. 4. 35-A MRSA §3452, sub-§§1 and 3, as enacted by PL 2007, c. 661, Pt. A, §7, are amended to read:
In applying these evaluation criteria, the primary siting authority shall consider the primary impact and the cumulative scenic impact or effect of the development during both day and night on scenic resources of national, state and local significance. A finding by the primary siting authority that the development's generating facilities are a highly visible feature in the landscape is not a solely sufficient basis for determination that an expedited wind energy project has an unreasonable adverse effect on the scenic character and existing uses related to scenic character of a scenic resource of national, state or national local significance. In making its determination under subsection 1, the primary siting authority shall consider insignificant the effects of portions of the development's generating facilities located more than 8 miles, measured horizontally, from a scenic resource of state or national significance.
Sec. 5. 35-A MRSA §3452, sub-§4, as enacted by PL 2007, c. 661, Pt. A, §7, is repealed and the following enacted in its place:
The primary siting authority shall make decisions under this subsection based on a preponderance of evidence in the record.
Sec. 6. 35-A MRSA §3457, sub-§3 is enacted to read:
Sec. 7. Directive to update great ponds studies. The Maine Land Use Planning Commission shall reevaluate and update the scenic resources sections of the "Maine Wildlands Lakes Assessment," published by the Maine Land Use Regulation Commission in June 1987, and the Department of Environmental Protection shall reevaluate and update the scenic resources sections of "Maine's Finest Lakes," published by the Executive Department, State Planning Office in October 1989. The Maine Land Use Planning Commission shall undertake this work using existing resources. Prior to completion of these updates, an interested party may, within 30 days of the acceptance of the application as complete for processing under the Maine Revised Statutes, Title 35-A, chapter 34-A, submit information to the primary siting authority that a great pond within the regulated viewshed of a proposed project that is not protected on the effective date of this Act under Title 35-A, section 3451, subsection 9, paragraph D meets the minimum standards for protection. The primary siting authority shall make a determination pursuant to this section within 30 days of its receipt of this information.
This bill makes several changes to the scenic impact provisions of the laws governing expedited permitting of grid-scale wind energy development enacted in 2008. It offers the possibility of protecting scenic resources that have been identified as significant by municipalities in their comprehensive plans and the scenic resources of certain great ponds on which there are commercial sporting camps; increases from 8 miles to 15 miles the jurisdictional distance for requiring visual impact assessments; and creates a rebuttable presumption that proposed grid-scale wind energy development projects within 15 miles of Acadia National Park, Baxter State Park, the Appalachian Trail, a federally designated wilderness area or the Allagash Wilderness Waterway will have an unreasonable adverse effect on a scenic resource. It requires the Department of Environmental Protection to consider the cumulative impacts of development when permitting grid-scale wind energy development projects under the laws governing expedited permitting of grid-scale wind energy development. It requires the Department of Environmental Protection to undertake rulemaking with respect to required decommissioning plans and directs updates of the great ponds studies done in 1987 and 1989.