Saturday, May 22, 2010
Quiet and Respectful While Being Insulted
On Friday, May 21st, I had the opportunity to hear former governor Angus King speak to the Somerset Economic Development Corporation. Since he was an invited guest and I was not, I remained silent throughout his hour-long speech about his company’s plans to build a 48 turbine grid-scale industrial plant along Highland’s five mountaintops. I remained silent, yes… but it was difficult.
Perhaps hardest to bear was the fact that those like myself who oppose this and similar projects had no opportunity to present the other side, and I was left to wonder if the SEDC members believed everything Mr. King had to say. A very large portion of what he said was not completely truthful. Most of it can be refuted with factual information provided by experts with no stake in industrial wind.
And honestly? Some of what he said was just plain insulting. He told the SEDC that "Jonathan Carter's people" were opposing the Highland wind project due to its scenic impact, only. This, despite having received a personal letter from me going into great detail about the many diverse reasons for our opposition. His labeling us as Jonathan's "people" was intended to invoke a negative reaction, as Jonathan has been at the forefront of several environmental fights in Maine over the last two decades, and those efforts have riled people up. Sadly, such things are bound to happen. Jonathan IS a member of the Friends of the Highland Mountains, living as he does in the shadow of those very hills. But he is no more central to the group than any of the rest of our members. We are not "his people" and Mr. King intended for his statement to stir up contention and an instant dismissal of our cause.
Mr. King told the group there would be NO impact to wildlife… but both the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife have admitted there most likely WILL be an adverse effect on our animals. They just aren’t sure how big that impact will be… until AFTER the turbines are installed.
Mr. King said there will be NO negative impact to birds and bats and yet, new studies being done are showing that the opposite is true. For just one example of how turbines are negatively impacting our flying creatures, check out this link: http://www.windaction.org/faqs/27304 The information contained in just that one article will frighten even the stoutest of men.
He said the sound of the turbines would NOT be an issue because these things couldn’t be heard "beyond a half-mile or so”. He completely discounted the rights of the two closest property owners, stating that their structures were only summer camps, and due to the masking effect of leaves on the trees in the summer time, the owners wouldn’t be affected. It didn’t matter to him that one of those camp owners has always dreamed of retiring to Highland Plantation. His right to use and enjoy his property was callously disregarded. In addition, more than one acoustics engineer has assured us that sound travels differently in mountainous terrain, and that set-backs of 2 miles or more is more appropriate. Those of us who have made these mountains our home know how far sound travels here, even without unbiased experts telling us so.
I could go on to refute another dozen statements Mr. King made as he tried to sell his product to the folks at the SEDC. The facts are readily available, and the Friends of the Highland Mountains are working hard to get them out to the general public. We don’t need to resort to rhetoric or half-truths. Science and economics have decided the issue for us. And for the record, we are NOT opposing land-based industrial wind due to its negative scenic impacts, only. To do so would be selfish, and this group is made up of fine, altruistic folks from all walks of life, all political parties and all income levels. There is not a single one of us who wouldn’t prefer to spend our precious free time doing something other than trying to stop this ill-fated plan for our mountains. Truthfully, there’s not a petty or selfish one amongst us, and I’m honored to know each of them.
It wasn’t easy to sit quietly and respectfully while we were publicly insulted and while we listened to half-truths and pat phrases intended to placate a dubious public. But we did it, and I was very proud of the caliber of men and women who sat beside me.
Sometimes, the right side actually wins. Today, I was more convinced than ever that this will be one of those times.
For more information on the governor’s plans for mountaintop wind development, please go to www.highlandmts.org. This site can give you a start as you begin your own search for the truth. Science and economics… those are the deciding factors for me and many of the people who oppose this and other mountaintop industrial wind projects across the state. Don’t take it from me, though. Do a little research and make up your own mind. You’ll be glad you did.
For the mountains... and for the truth,