Tuesday, November 16, 2010

By Don Smith: Why I Chose to be Arrested at Rollins Mountain


My name is Don Smith. I am a native Mainer and I am 82 years old. I am a veteran and a grandfather. I was arrested and charged with criminal trespass at the Rollins Mt. wind project site in Lincoln on November 8. Five were arrested as we formed a human barricade to the site. Dozens of others braved the cold rainy November day to protest First Wind’s project.
Many people have asked me why I did this. Good question. I hope I give good answers. The first reason is that nobody seems to be paying attention to the negative aspects of wind power. Least of all is the complacent and complicit media in Maine. If we had just stood out there with signs, even the local reporter would likely have overlooked the event. By putting myself on the line to dramatize why this project is so wrong, it caught the attention of media far and wide.

It seems that most people understand utility scale (or industrial) wind power superficially, accepting wind power as “green” and “clean” and the panacea for solving energy and climate challenges. It is the result of years of masterful propaganda by the wind industry. Some of us have actually done a lot of research into industrial wind and have found huge negatives. By dramatically raising the visibility of the issue with the arrests, we are getting people to discover these negatives as the follow up dialogue transpires.

I have gained insights from my research into industrial wind. The wind industry would not exist without massive government subsidies. For example: the US Energy Information Administration reports that in 2007, wind received $23.37 per megawatt hour in subsidies; the next highest subsidy was $1.59 for nuclear. Those are our tax dollars going into something that doesn’t work.

We are putting up wind turbines in places where there isn’t enough wind to generate electricity. Look at the NREL map of wind potential in Maine. The area around Lincoln Lakes is all white. Look at the color code and white means “poor”. My guess is wind turbines are not about generating electricity, they are about selling a carbon tax in the form of Renewable Energy Certificates, raking in Production Tax Credits, and having the taxpayers pay the cost of construction.

Another reason I got arrested is to protest the proliferation of these industrial wind projects. I retired to live a quiet life on Caribou Pond, with a view of Rollins Mt. That ridge will have fifteen turbines, each 389 feet high. The total number of turbines will be forty on Rollins Mt. and the ridges of Rocky Dundee. An acoustics expert stated that the noise from these turbines will negatively impact hundreds of people on the lakes and nearby country roads, the same well-documented noise problems that have been experienced at Mars Hill, Freedom, and Vinalhaven.

I am not a NIMBY. I don’t believe these industrial machines belong anywhere in the rural landscape. Not in anyone’s yard---back yard, front yard, side yard. The noise issue is just one of many. If you could see the destruction of Rollins Mt. taking place right now, you would never consider this a “green” project. The DEP would fine me if I moved a rock at my home, yet they approved ridges being blasted away and scalped. They will never be the same. The Rollins project will blast away more than seven miles of ridges and clear-cut more than one thousand acres and install twenty miles of powerlines to tie into the grid.

That is for just one project. Without thinking through the ramifications, in 2008 the Legislature passed LD 2283, a horrible law to give favoritism to wind power. They chose an arbitrary figure of 2700 MW of installed capacity by 2020, which at a generous actual output of 25%, ends up being just 675 MW of intermittent, unpredictable, unreliable power. If Rollins is 60 MW, then it will mean 45 more projects like this to achieve that goal. Do the math. Based on the impact of Rollins, that means at least 315 miles of Maine ridges and mountains blasted away to install 1800 turbines; 45,000 acres or more of carbon sequestrating forest permanently clear-cut; and 1,000 miles or more of new powerlines. The price? Rollins’ pricetag of $130 million times 45 is a staggering $5.85 billion.

Why did I get arrested? To help bring forth what a folly this is and how damaging it is to Maine’s environment. Wind power is bad economics and bad public policy. It is far from “green”. The negative impacts of these projects on the environment and our quality of place far outweigh the pittance of good they might do for the planet.

Top Photo-Dr. Gary Steinberg
Seond Photo--Don Smith being loaded into cruiser (taken by Brad Blake, I think...)
Third Photo--Brad Blake
Bottom photo by Nick Sambides of the Bangor Daily News

This is an epilogue, of sorts. I spoke on the phone to Don Smith today, and heard a tale that was disturbing.

On November 9th, the day after the Rollins rally during which Mr. Smith got arrested, the Portland Press Herald published a very disturbing opinion piece.

Please read the PPH's "view" for yourself.

This is how the commentary started:

Protesters hoped that by stalling work on the Rollins wind farm in Lexington Township, they would draw attention to what they see as harmful development of Maine's wild places. Instead, they called attention to the self-centered and small-minded attitudes of some environmental activists and, ultimately, the ineffectiveness of bullying tactics used by groups...

And this is what Don told me this afternoon:

Don said the handcuffs were put on quite tightly before he was loaded into the police cruiser. After a few minutes, he complained that they were hurting and asked that they be removed. Of course, they couldn't do that. Law enforcement officers have standard operating procedures. Understandable, even if Don is an 82 year old man. He then asked if the cuffs could be loosened a little. An officer complied, but Don told me it felt like the officer tightened them, instead. Another cop noticed that Don's wrist was bleeding, and the gent informed them that he took medication to thin his blood. At that point, the officers decided to take Don to the hospital in Lincoln, where his cut wrist was bandaged.

Please read that opinion piece in the PPH. And then decide for yourselves who is bullying whom. Objective opinion piece from the newspaper which is owned in part by Governor Baldacci's brother? Gentle treatment of an old man who is standing up for what he believes? Who's the bully, here?

In case you've never noticed, I don't like bullies. Just thought I'd say...

Oh, and by the way.... readers left over 100 online comments to this op-ed containing factual information about industrial wind and the Lincoln project. Guess what? They've all mysteriously disappeared. Again.

We've got a big problem here in Maine. Luckily, we've also got Mainers like Don Smith.


  1. Don Smith, you have my respect and my gratitude. The Greatest Generation never lets us down.

    Thank you!


  2. P.S. I will be posting a photo of Don shortly... waiting for it from a friend. :o)

  3. Don is my HERO!!! He stood in for many people that day and it took a lot of courage. Non-plussed as always, though, he shrugged it off and said "what are they gonna do to me? All I've got is my pick up truck and my dog." He fervently wants people in Maine to know what is happening and warn them that this is coming to a ridge near them, soon, if we don't stop it. Don had the guts to stand up and put actions to his words. My HERO!!!

  4. Morning, Brad!

    I'm finding all kinds of heroes in this effort, and yes, Don is one of them. Don't forget your own part in all of this: you're one of the 'original' wind warriors.

    Thanks for being a pioneer. And for not giving up!


  5. Thanks for posting this. Don, you are amazing. Good luck to all Wind Warriors!

  6. Hi K!

    Another Wind Warrior checks in! How's it going? If I can clear a few tasks up here before my 3 'windy' meetings this afternoon, I'll be sending you an email....

    Talk soon, I hope.


  7. Thank you, and your reasons are valid. What a waste of resources...for what reason. Big Industrial Wind is not green. Big Industrial Wind would not exist if the free tax goodies were removed. Thank you for sharing your story.

    Frank O'Hara

  8. Hi Frank.

    I appreciate you stopping by and showing your support. As more and more folks learn the truths behind Industrial Wind, I believe we will see a groudswell of people following the lead of brave men like Don.

    It's only when the everyday citizen takes a stand that important and significant changes are made. It won't happen at the state level until we make it clear that the government works for the people and not the other way around.

    Thanks again for helping this cause.


  9. Big corporations vs the little guy. Wish I had more hope for you. Sorry. Crystal

  10. Hi Crystal! How nice to see you here on GAG! I hope all is well with you?

    Please don't be sorry. Yes, this is an almost insurmountable battle, but I have GREAT hope. Big corporations, in collusion with the government, ARE almost impossible to triumph over. BUT! All those little guys? Standing together, we are making a difference. We are educating Mainers and people are stepping forward every day after learning the FACTS, and saying "What can we do?" Every time significant change has been made in the past, it started with a small local group who decided to go out on a limb and make a difference, have a 'say'... the Civil Rights movement, Women's Suffrage... these history-changing events all began at a grass-roots level, when people realized that they were being taken advantage of by a more powerful and influential group.

    So, yes... I have GREAT hope. People are delighting me and amazing me every day. We might lose some of these battles along the way, but in the end, doing what's RIGHT will pay off, as long as we don't allow ourselves to be intimidated.

    Thanks so much for stopping in. I hope you'll weigh in often. Have a great weekend!


  11. You have my deepest respect, Mr. Smith

  12. My hat is off to Don Smith. What a guy!