Tuesday, February 2, 2010
An Open Letter to the Members of Maine's Legislature
I have just received notice from Maine's Land Use Regulatory Commission (LURC) that Highland Wind LLC's permit application is complete, and that LURC will begin reviewing it tomorrow, February 3, 2010. In that same notification came the news that the citizens of Maine have two weeks to request a public hearing to voice their opinions about this industrial development proposed for the unspoiled mountain ridges of Highland Plantation. TWO WEEKS! Two weeks to activate the citizens of Maine, TWO WEEKS to get petitions to them for signature, TWO WEEKS to collate and assemble them and get them to LURC in Augusta. If this development is approved, the impact made on our mountains and to our culture and our quality of life will last FOREVER. Once the crests of a small mountain range have been blasted away in 48 separate places, that horizon will never be the same. The devastation will be irreversible. And yet... we are given a paltry, token two weeks to assemble an opposition to this plan.
I cannot adequately express the anger I feel without using words innappropriate for this medium. And I cannot convey the indignation or the sorrow I feel without beginning what I believe would be a long and vituperous rant. Instead of spouting off on GAG, I am pasting in a copy of the letter which I sent to each member of Maine's Legislature. I believe most of them received it, although some of the email addresses I got from the state's website were not current, and ten of them came back to me. I'll work on seeing if I can find more updated addresses, out of fairness and courtesy to our senators and representatives. I want them all to be on the same page, in case those elected officials who are supposed to represent Maine's citizens deem this issue important enough to address.
I invite your comments, no matter where on this planet you are from. And if you are a fellow Mainer, I respectfully request your assistance. Study up on the subject of Big Wind. A good place to start is at this website: www.highlandmts.org. From there you can access many links to broaden your knowledge. This is important, for with knowledge comes power, and we're losing a little of our power each day.
Then, if you believe--as I do--that it is a mistake to place these inefficient and economically unfeasible energy plants along 360 miles of Maine's mountaintops (which is virtually all of them save those inside the Appalachian Trail corridor and the national and state parks) then I ask that you go one step further. I ask that you contact me in the next few days and request a petition whereby you request that LURC grant a public hearing. I ask that you sign it and mail it back to the Friends of the Highland Mountains, PO Box 111, New Portland, ME 04961. In my opinion, whether you agree with my position on this issue or not, we should ALL believe in our right as American citizens to be granted the opportunity to voice our opinions. This is still America, after all. We're talking about basic rights, here. Rights that are being whisked away before we even notice they're up for grabs.
The following letter is long, but I ask that you devote a few moments of your busy day to read it. The issues are important, and the time is very, very short.
Thank you, my friends.
‘Voices on the Wind’
January 25, 2010
Dear Senators and Representatives of the Maine Legislature;
I am a citizen with serious concerns regarding a crisis here in Maine. Although the specific issue I will speak of pertains to our state, the root problem is one that is affecting the country at large. It’s time for us to take a leadership role and do what is right.
Americans are fast losing their voice and their right to shape their own destinies and the future of our country. You, the members of our State Legislature, passed an ‘emergency’ bill in 2008 which is now known as LD#2283, the ‘expedited permitting law’. This law was shaped, in part, by industrial wind turbine developers. Rob Gardiner, partner to Maine’s former governor Angus King, gave specific instructions and advice to Governor Baldacci’s Task Force on Wind Power as to how this law could best circumvent the objections of the people of Maine, as well as eliminating many of the discretionary powers of LURC, the board charged with protecting Maine’s natural resources in our unorganized territories. Once it was designed (using those recommendations of developers who stood to make millions of dollars on industrial wind), the Task Force then urged passage of the measure. This bill passed into law in 15 days–a remarkably short time-frame. Not a single member of our Legislature voted against this ‘emergency’ measure, and there was no debate. There is some question as to whether some of you even read the bill.
What LD#2283 does, in essence, is fast-track the installation of massive industrial wind turbine developments along the unspoiled mountain ridges of Maine. The people of Maine, under this law, do not have the ‘right’ to a public hearing, wherein we can voice our objections to these encroachments. That the bill was introduced as an ‘emergency’ measure removed the standard 90-day period between its passage and its implementation, during which the people of this state would have had time to learn of the measure before it was put into practice.
There are many injustices involved in this issue. The ‘emergency’ designation is just the first. There was no genuine emergency. There were no blizzards or earthquakes or floods to prompt this measure. There was no war or disaster looming on the horizon. I believe that we, the people of Maine, were the ‘emergency’. I believe that the politicians and the developers with power, money and influence knew that if the voting public of this state learned of the huge impacts these industrial energy plants would have on our landscape, wildlife, economy and quality of life here in Maine, they might very well stand up and object. Directly prior to the passage of LD#2283 some average Mainers openly opposed other such installations, and they caused many problems for the developers. They delayed approval of the permit. They insisted on additional environmental impact studies. They even caused the Redington permit application to be denied. The average Mainers were the ‘emergency’, and so we were removed from the equation. At the very least, we are ordered to jump through hoops to earn the possibility of being heard. Even after such acrobatics, there is no guarantee that a public hearing will be allowed. In all honesty, I am not convinced that, if granted, a hearing will even carry any weight. I believe a public hearing would be nothing more than a tool to placate those in opposition, and give them a false feeling of hope. I believe that the administrations in Washington and Augusta have charged those under their authority to expedite the permitting process. Period. End of story.
In order for developers to take advantage of government subsidy monies to fund their projects, the roadblocks and delays must be eliminated quickly, before those offers of subsidies expire. In my opinion, that was the purpose of LD#2283; to remove those human roadblocks.
The passage of that law was an outrageous act. What is worse is that the general public has not received honest information regarding these wind developments. We have been fed the line that ‘wind is green, and green is good’. I am as concerned as the next woman about global warming, our country’s dependence on foreign oil, and the need for sustainable and renewable energy sources. But I want to see responsible, careful, and long term consideration given to the resources and citizens of our rural communities.
In order to meet the governor’s goals for sustainable energy, over three hundred miles of our mountaintops will have to be sacrificed for massive forty-story wind turbines. The summits will be dynamited to create a level area for the pouring of a massive concrete pad for each of the hundreds of towers. Miles and miles of roads will be cut through pristine forests and along the slopes of hills to allow access to the turbines and their infrastructure. Transmission corridors will also be cut, and the vegetation controlled with herbicides. Hydro-fractures, erosion, interruption of the foraging and hunting trails of our native species, bird and bat deaths from collision with the blades… these are just a few of the concerns that pertain to the ecology and environment of this state. Thousands of acres of trees and plants will be sacrificed– vegetation that is invaluable when battling the effects of greenhouse gasses! The emissions created in manufacturing these machines add another complication to the equation of how ‘green’ wind energy is. These turbines are not manufactured in the United States, either. That government subsidy money–those tax dollars that come from working Americans–will be shipped overseas to places like China and Denmark to support the economies of those countries. Not America’s. As far as the question of job creation here at home is concerned, some local workers may be employed on a temporary basis during the construction phases, but the developers themselves have told us that full time maintenance jobs are limited to a few for each project.
Over the past three decades Maine has lost the majority of its industry. Our paper mills, our saw mills, our shirt and shoe factories, our toothpick and novelty manufacturers are all gone. Those ‘in the know’ decided it was cheaper to export the jobs and import the goods. What Maine has left are our natural resources. Our unspoiled and beautiful wilderness. Our lush trees and our rugged mountains, our crystal clear lakes and glacial ponds. Tourism is what is saving Maine. People escape the crowds and the urban sprawl and industrial complexes to come to Maine, where they can experience life the way it should be. If we despoil this state by covering every mountaintop outside the Appalachian Trail corridor and beyond the boundaries of our national and state parks with 40-story wind turbines that thrum and pulse and create disorienting shadow flicker, and which are proven to cause severe sleep disturbances and other serious health problems, then I despair of ever seeing a tourist or his dollars, again. We may have a brief influx of folks who come to Maine to gawk at our new horizons, but that will be short-lived. Once you’ve seen one ruined skyline; once you’ve heard the jet whine and low frequency thrum caused by blades which sweep an area the size of a 747; once you’ve witnessed a landscape forever altered and scarred, the novelty passes. And what do we Mainers have left?
What we have is an unreliable energy source; windmills that are at the mercy of intermittent winds and the ravages of nature, and massive and expensive pieces of machinery whose power production is so unreliable that electrical plants powered by coal and natural gas must remain online as back-up. The real kicker is that Maine already produces more power than its citizens consume. We are an exporter of electricity. Every bit of that unnecessary wind-generated power will be shipped to southern New England, where the need is greater. If we wish to buy back that ‘green’ power, we will have to pay the higher rates paid by consumers living in those other states. Maine does not need this power, but it is our natural resources which will be sacrificed to meet the needs of more gluttonous markets. It will be our mountaintops which will be blasted away, our wildlife which will be threatened, our very culture and our ability to provide for ourselves which will be at risk. There is no wisdom in this proposal.
Other countries like Spain and Denmark which have heavily invested in wind energy for decades have learned some valuable lessons from their mistakes. I am baffled as to why our elected leaders are not willing to learn from them.
In our complacency we Americans have allowed our government to decide what is best for us. We have allowed it to assume powers which it does not rightly have. The government (and that includes you) works for us; not the other way around. I am tired of being told what will happen in my home and in my homeland, instead of being asked for permission before new, irreversible and encompassing decisions are made. I still have rights as an American citizen and I am tired of watching my freedoms disappear. I’m angry that decisions are made without my input. I still have a voice, and I still have a vote, and I intend to use them.
I ask that you take time to research this issue if you have not done so, and bring the facts to the citizens of Maine and to the rest of the country. I ask that you put politics and careers aside and stand up. Show us you actually represent the best interests of this state and her people. Do what’s right. This is a multi-faceted issue, and as Maine is not alone in its mandates it is a subject which will soon be affecting much of the nation.
Using the internet and standard media, I have researched wind turbine developments and all the myriad issues involved in their placement, feasibility, and environmental and health impacts. I have read documents provided through the Freedom of Information Act. I have had in-depth discussions with a sound engineer, an environmental engineer, my senator and representative, and citizens of Maine already living in the shadow of Big Wind. I have referenced Dr. Nina Pierpont’s study of Wind Turbine Syndrome. I’ve also attended meetings held by wind developers in my neighboring town. I have taken the time to learn the realities of ‘Big Wind’. As members of the Maine Legislature who represent the citizens of this state, I believe it is your obligation to do the same.
The people of Maine must have their power restored. The state and federal governments must return to their proper place. This is not the America of my youth. We, the people, have to stop allowing a government that is out of control to make local decisions for us. The state and federal government exist to support home rule, not to eliminate it. They exist at our discretion, and must operate by carrying out the will of the majority of its citizens. Those with money and influence must not have more power than ordinary citizens, because ordinary citizens are the backbone of this country.
There is little chance we can turn the tide and stop the destruction of our mountains as long as LD#2283 holds sway, and while those with money and influence are able to push their agendas forward, but I refuse to relinquish my right to have a say in what happens in my corner of this great nation. I have a voice, and I plan to use it. A moratorium must be put in place before further permits are granted under LD#2283. Thereafter, this law must be repealed.
I look forward to you response, and will be happy to discuss this issue with you.
Karen L. Pease
This photo was taken on February 5, 2010 in Freedom, Maine. The blade swept down from behind the trees and the home on the right-hand side of the road and stopped me in my tracks. I was stunned by this perspective. This turbine is only 260 feet tall; almost 150 feet shorter than those destined for Highland's mountaintops.
This photo is also of one of the three turbines in Freedom, from 4 miles away (via the access roads-- not sure as the crow flies). The pic is small, so it's hard to see details, but I was amazed at how the farmhouses to the right and left were dwarfed by this turbine.
Thanks go to my very good friend Jack Ramsay, who proofed this letter for me after I wrote it and gave me wise counsel and words of encouragement. I THINK I made all of his corrections, but if I missed any of them, I'd prefer it if you blamed Jack, rather than me. His shoulders are broad, and I'm busy. I've got some mountains to save.
Heh... thanks, Pal.