Wednesday, August 4, 2010
Unbelievable! (Sadly... No, It's Not!)
On Tuesday, August 3rd, I got wind of a motion filed by Trans-Canada, the industrial wind developer who is attempting to get a permit to extend its Kibby Mountain project over to Sisk Mountain, in Chain of Ponds Township. This is the letter I wrote in response... and I sent it to each of the state's daily newspapers, asking them to please publish on Wednesday morning.
To the best of my knowledge, no one did.
At their July meeting, LURC commissioners took a ‘straw vote’ to see how the board stood on Trans-Canada’s permit application to develop Sisk Mountain. After a 5-2 vote to deny, they ordered LURC Staff to prepare a decision document to that effect, with their official vote due to be made at the August 4th meeting in Bangor.
Since that time, the Wind Industry and its supporters have been scrambling, doing their utmost to influence the commissioners’ decision. People and entities such as Professor Orlando Delogu, who prepared reports for the Governor’s Task Force on Wind Power, Jay Wyman, a selectman in the town receiving the most ‘tangible benefits’ from Trans-Canada for the Boundary Mountains project, and Alison Hagerstrom of the Greater Franklin Development Corporation have been inundating the media with commentaries designed to sway the Board’s decision. Like schoolyard bullies who resort to unsavory tactics to make sure their will prevails, the Wind Industry called in its gang.
It was a mistake for the LURC Commissioners to take that straw vote. They opened themselves up to the castigation of industrial wind proponents. In addition, they provided Trans-Canada with a month-long grace period in which they could try to develop a new strategy to compel LURC to vote in their favor.
They certainly were not idly waiting for that official decision. On Friday, July 30th, in an 11th hour move, Trans-Canada submitted a motion to table the vote on the Denial decision and re-open the record so they can introduce an amendment to reduce the number of turbines in the Sisk project from fifteen to eleven, claiming such a change would significantly reduce environmental and scenic impacts.
In reality, such a change will simply reduce by a small amount the millions of tax-payer dollars with which Trans-Canada can line their pockets if their strong-arm tactics are successful and they convince LURC to sacrifice that high-terrain peak which casts its shadow over the unique and beautiful Chain of Ponds.
LURC must hold firm, stand up to the bullies, and do what’s right. They must stand by their decision to deny Trans-Canada’s permit application for the development of Sisk Mountain. ‘Might’ must not triumph over ‘right’.
And THIS is what will be in this morning's Bangor Daily News!
Canadian firm to scale back Kibby Mountain wind project8/4/10 08:37 pm Updated: 8/4/10 08:40 pm
By Kevin Miller
BANGOR, Maine — A Canadian energy firm is scaling back its expansion plans for Western Maine’s Kibby Mountain wind farm after state regulators made clear that they could not support placing an additional 15 turbines in the area.
TransCanada officials told the Land Use Regulation Commission on Wednesday that they plan to file a revised application removing the four southernmost turbines in the 15-turbine project. The project is proposed for Kibby and Chain of Ponds townships, approximately two miles from the second phase of the Kibby wind farm now under construction.
TransCanada’s attorney outlined the proposed changes on the same day that LURC was poised to deny the company’s permit request at its Bangor meeting. Despite opposition from the project’s critics, commissioners voted unanimously to table the issue in order to allow TransCanada to revise its application.
“This proposal is not lightly made,” said Juliet Browne, who represented TransCanada before the commission.
During a meeting last month, commissioners largely agreed with concerns raised by opponents that the proposed wind farm expansion would harm views from nearby lakes and trails.
In its written recommendation to the commission, LURC staff noted that while both the original Kibby project and the proposed expansion would “significantly compromise views,” the southern seven turbines within the proposed expansion would have “unreasonable adverse impact to the scenic character of the Chain of Ponds and of the Arnold Trail.”
Commissioners also voiced serious concerns that the southern half of the project would have unacceptable effects on the subalpine fir forests and the Bicknell’s thrush, a bird dependent on subalpine fir forests that the state lists as a “species of special concern.”
Several commissioners had indicated last month that they likely could support a project containing just the eight northern turbines because they had fewer effects on scenic views or subalpine forests. Browne said Wednesday that the eight-turbine project was not economically viable, however.
“We think this is very responsive to the commissioners’ concerns about reducing the subalpine impacts, reducing the impacts on Bicknell’s thrush and reducing the visual impacts on Chain of Ponds,” Browne said.
Critics of the 15-turbine project argued unsuccessfully against allowing TransCanada to revise its application so late in the process.
The most forceful statements came from Bob Weingarten, president of the organization Friends of the Boundary Mountains, who criticized TransCanada for seeking to revise and delay the project now after working hard to keep the project on the fast-track for so long.
Weingarten said the company’s inflexibility caused hardship to his small group of volunteers as they tried to share their views with the commission.
“TransCanada had months and months to change their proposal while the record was still open,” Weingarten said. “TransCanada had months and months to listen to the other side.”
The first 22 turbines of TransCanada’s Kibby wind farm are already operating, and the company is building another 22 turbines at the site.
Last month, three protesters with the group Maine EarthFirst! were arrested while blocking the road leading up to the company’s construction site. Maine EarthFirst! and other critics of industrial wind power contend that projects such as TransCanada’s destroy mountaintops and do little to offset the use of fossil fuels.
Unbelievable! And yet, sadly... it's not.