Monday, July 5, 2010
A Pressing Matter
The Friends of the Highland Mountains held a press conference in the State of Maine room at Portland City Hall on Wednesday, June 30th. The purpose of the gathering was to officially release our DVD, ‘Save the Mountains of Highland, Maine’.
We wrote up a press release and faxed and emailed it to every major media outlet in the state of Maine; television stations, radio stations and newspapers. We chased the written announcements with telephone calls—member Jonathan Carter made the original calls the night before, and I followed up with reminders the morning of the DVD's release.
More than a dozen of our members took time out of their busy lives and drove the long distance to southern Maine to stand together for the event. I was humbled. Whenever I mention a need—in this case, a simple, public showing of support—the Friends (who are truly ‘friends’) never let me down. More importantly, they never let the mountains down, or each other.
I don’t have experience in the public arena, so I don’t really know if success was achieved by the number of media that showed up for the press conference. There were two television stations, ABC and NBC, which cover a large portion of the state, and a radio station, Maine Public Broadcasting Network, which also has a far-reaching audience. What constitutes ‘ample coverage’ eludes me, but I was somewhat contented. I handed out informational packets and copies of our DVD to each reporter and cameraman, and then-- we were ‘on’.
Jonathan introduced us and our DVD. He has 25 years of experience dealing with the media, so that seemed to be a good idea. I then spoke for approximately five minutes. My statement is pasted in, below. Following my words, we showed our twenty-five minute video… a documentary that details our struggle to protect the five mountains of Highland Plantation, Maine.
After that, it was over. We packed up our computer, and the power point projector and screen and left City Hall. The other members of the Board of Directors and I walked to the offices of the Portland Press Herald (which did not attend the press conference) and to the Associated Press office and delivered our packets and copies of our DVD. After that, any control that we had of the situation was out of our hands.
My statement to the press, June 30, 2010
Good morning. `My name is Karen Pease, and I’m a member of the Friends of the Highland Mountains. I’d like to thank Jonathan Carter of the Forest Ecology Network, who, along with the Maine Appalachian Trail Club, the Citizens’ Task Force on Wind Power, and many other organizations, is standing with us in our effort to protect the mountains of Highland Plantation. Today we are releasing to the press a DVD which we’ve created, and we hope that you will dedicate 25 minutes of your time to watching this production. In the DVD we have outlined our concerns regarding the industrial wind development which Angus King and Rob Gardiner propose to construct atop Highland’s five mountains.
In the months since Highland Wind LLC first submitted their permit application to Maine’s Land Use Regulation Commission, I have read reams and reams of material pertaining to the topic of Industrial Wind. What I have learned has astounded me, and some of it comes from the developers’ own permit application. I learned of the serious negative impacts to our environment and its ecosystems. I read of high, low and ultra-low frequency noise and shadow flicker, and its effects on humans who live in the vicinity of wind turbines. I’ve spoken with people who live in the shadow of these energy plants and I’ve received first-hand accounts of what they are dealing with. I’ve talked with wildlife biologists who are deeply concerned about the effects of fragmentation of habitat, abandonment of homes and nesting sites, and deaths resulting from blade collisions. I’ve paid attention to economists, scientists and physicists who have nothing to gain and much to lose by speaking out… and they are saying: Mountaintop Industrial Wind in Maine DOES NOT DO what developers promise. It is unreliable, intermittent, is not proven to lessen our dependence on fossil fuels, and… it is very, very expensive. Expensive to electrical rate-payers, expensive to the tax-payers who are footing a large percentage of the cost of these projects through government subsidies-- and it will no doubt negatively impact our economy, which is driven in large part by tourist dollars and the real estate market.
I realize that as good reporters, you will go to Mr. King for his comments on the DVD, this press conference and our intention to stop his Highland project, so please let me say this. Mr. King has been known to give statements which are not grounded in facts. He has been quoted as saying that our only complaint is the visual impact of these turbines. That is not true. He knows that is not true, for I wrote him a personal letter stating our concerns.
As stewards of this earth, and as conscientious individuals, we are attempting to protect our natural resources and our quality of place and quality of life. Mr. King might trivialize our concerns about the effects of the noise, the shadow flicker and the lights. But he has also been quoted as saying that you “cannot hear a truck from more than a mile away”. In regards to the turbine noise, he has repeatedly said “a half-mile is about right. Hear them for miles? Never!” He trivializes the fact that the dwellings within a half mile of his proposed project are nothing but ‘summer camps’. He completely discounts those people who own them, and he has no idea what future plans the owners have for their unique properties. There are many standard lines which this developer uses to make light of our concerns, and I hope that you will take them with a grain of salt. He and his partner stand to make millions of dollars from this project, and they would like the public to discount us. I hope you will give our words credence. We are trying very hard to be factual. We want the people of Maine to know the truths regarding mountaintop industrial wind.
We in Maine ALREADY HAVE what millions of Americans crave—abundant and beautiful natural resources. Our mountains represent a way of life--and a way of making a living. It is unconscionable to expect us to sacrifice our natural resources to satisfy another region’s electrical needs. This DVD is one way in which we are attempting to educate the Maine people about the impacts of a misguided plan. It is our hope and our intention to protect these natural resources which stand at the gateway to the Bigelow Preserve and the Appalachian Trail.
Thank you for your time. We will be available after the DVD to answer any of your questions. And if we do not know the answers, we will do our very best to find honest, factual, truthful answers for you.
In addition to my statement, I am going to include the story written by the AP reporter, Dave Sharp. He couldn’t attend the press conference, but he read my hand-delivered statement—perhaps even watched the DVD—and called Jonathan on his cell phone before I’d even jigged my over-long truck out of the too-small space in the municipal lot. Mr. Sharp chose to write a different story. Something that had less to do with the Highland mountains and our group’s very real concerns about the negative impacts of a 48 turbine development on those pristine ridges. Please note the focus of the story… a story which was picked up by media outlets across the state, and even nationally.
Carter, King clash over wind power project
By The Associated Press
PORTLAND, Maine — A former Green Independent Party candidate for governor exchanged charges of greed and hypocrisy Wednesday with a former governor who’s promoting a 128-megawatt wind power project in Somerset County.
Building 48 wind turbines in Highland Plantation would require blasting of 1.6 million cubic yards of rock and dirt, decimate fragile alpine terrain and generate visual and noise pollution all while failing to reduce greenhouse emissions, said Jonathan Carter, director of the Forest Ecology Network.
Former independent Maine Gov. Angus King, one of the Highland Wind LLC business partners, said the project carries an environmental impact but that it’s more benign than oil, gas, coal or nuclear power. It would create enough clean energy for about 54,000 homes, or all the homes in Franklin, Piscataquis and Somerset counties.
King also took a jab at his former political foe in the 1994 gubernatorial race, saying the environmentally minded Carter was supportive of wind power until a project was proposed near his home.
Carter, who lives about 3.5 miles from the turbines, responded by calling King a “mountain-slayer and a profiteer.” He said he’s not against wind power, but he’s against large projects that destroy mountaintops: “Industrial mountaintop wind, wherever you put it, is a disaster.”
The war of words began with a news conference at Portland City Hall by the Friends of Highland Mountains, which has created a DVD outlining its opposition.
Carter described the construction of wind turbines on mountain ridges as “Maine’s version of mountaintop removal.” And he said there would be no reduction in greenhouse gases because carbon-emitting power plants would have to be kept running and on standby for times when the wind isn’t blowing.
Furthermore, he said the turbine towers with blinking lights would be built in the face of the Bigelow Preserve and could be seen by hikers on the Appalachian Trail.
“I’ll buy him a bus ticket to West Virginia, where they’re tearing mountains to the ground to feed our fossil fuel addiction,” King retorted. He said there would be a “1-to-1” reduction in greenhouse gases because existing plants would be throttled back whenever the turbines are in operation.
He said the remoteness of the site is part of its appeal. He said there are only two vacation homes a half-mile from the turbines and that other homes are at least a mile away, reducing the impact.
Maine is the leader in New England when it comes to wind power, with 432 megawatts of wind power either in operations or under construction. Large projects already in operation include TransCanada’s Kibby Mountain, First Wind’s Mars Hill, and First Wind’s Stetson I and Stetson II.
Central Maine Power is beginning a five-year upgrade of the power grid to make it more reliable and to increase capacity for future wind power projects.
As you can see, the AP reporter chose to focus on Jonathan and Angus; two men who were pitted against each other in the gubernatorial race of 1994. The two are old foes, and the reporter decided to exploit an ancient controversy rather than devote the majority of his coverage to our battle to save our mountains. To many, the fact that we received such broad coverage was a good thing, no matter what the focal point was of the story. To others, disappointment ruled the day. We'd had high hopes... hopes that thousands of Mainers would learn of our struggle against big money, influence and power. We hoped that they would hear about our concern over a financially wasteful plan which, if implemented, will cause serious damage to our environment, its ecosystems, our wildlife, and our people.
But we can't control the media nor can we dictate what they choose to report. What we can do-- what we WILL do-- is learn from our mistakes. We can and will also continue to take our message to the people of Maine, and we will speak of this issue armed with facts. Science and economics tell the story, no matter what sub-plots the news media puts forth for readers' consumption.
We were surprised today, and some were momentarily discouraged. But the Friends of the Highland Mountains is made up of some cool, tough, dedicated individuals who don't despair when we hit a bump in the road. Instead, we tighten our seatbelts, shift into low gear, and increase our power. We'll get where we need to go. It might take us a little longer to arrive, but we WILL save the mountains of Highland Plantation, Maine.
And by the way... Angus' statements sound good because he puts just enought truth in them to make them believable. But they can and will be factually refuted. He's coasted along on star power and some lingering popularity, but I think the people of this great state are waking up to the truth... and they WANT the truth. The WHOLE truth.
And NOTHING BUT the truth.
We can help them discover it.