Tuesday, December 28, 2010
The Essence of Maine
In the January 2011 issue of DownEast Magazine, there is a section called “Maine In Your Words”. People from every corner of the country and every walk of life described their perspective of this state—they told what Maine means to them. The myriad responses were touching, and telling. Maine is simply unique. We already have what so many others are craving.
I feel blessed to be interwoven into the fabric of this wonderful region.
The DownEast article coincides with the submission to Maine’s Land Use Regulation Commission of a revised permit application for the Highland Wind project. Just hours ago, I read the press release provided by Angus King and Rob Gardiner, the two principals of Highland Wind, LLC, the developer for the project. The statement is everything I thought it would be; pure public relations fluff.
The interveners and interested parties in this project have attempted to be factual when speaking to the public and the press about industrial wind’s huge impacts and negligible benefits. The developer, however, has continued to mislead the public.
As pertains to mountaintop industrial wind energy facilities, our exposure of many of the original ‘selling points’ as being deceptive has caused wind developers to change tactics and revamp their rhetoric. In addition, I believe efforts to educate the public have resulted in some of the changes in Highland Wind LLC's revised proposal.
The major difference to the application--outlined in the press release--is that 9 of the original 48 turbines have been removed from the project, which also results in a reduction in the amount of access road construction and permanent clear-cutting which will be necessary if the permit is approved. While I oppose--and will continue to oppose--this project in its entirety, I believe this is a victory for those Mainers who have been working to preserve our natural resources and quality of life, and promote common sense, economical decisions regarding our energy future. Before we ever went to public hearing to present our case, the developers recognized that their project was flawed. Make no mistake: It still is. But this is an indication that the developers acknowledge that fact.
I do, however, find it very ironic that Highland Wind LLC now proposes to forever protect the Stewart ridge from industrial wind turbines, when just a few short months ago, they were prepared to fight tooth and nail to have the original project approved in its entirety. Theirs is certainly a professional public relations campaign.
In the coming days and weeks, the permit application will be reviewed by the LURC staff, and the public. And when the time comes we will show why, based on sound science and economics, this project should not be approved. We are ready, and we are resolved. More importantly, we have the truth on our side.
Here is another irony. Former governor Angus King, project developer for Record Hill in Roxbury and the mountains in Highland Plantation, was quoted in that DownEast article. “Define the essence of Maine in a sentence.” Most people could not comply. Maine’s ‘essence’ is multi-faceted, whether speaking about its majestic ocean and mountain vistas, its pragmatic yet generous inhabitants, or its abundant and diverse wildlife. Some who responded to that question simply went on and on. And others, like Mr. King, managed to define Maine’s essence in two or three succinct sentences.
"It’s common sense, independence, understatement, and values. It’s one of the few places left that you can rightly say has character, both in its land and its people." Angus King
In this instance, I agree with Mr. King’s words, if not with his actions.
Here are a few more quotes from that article. The ‘Maine’ these people speak of is the Maine which those common-sense, independent and value-infused citizens our former governor spoke of are trying to preserve.
“A state that beckons us through serene natural beauty, rather than manufactured attractions.”
Bill and Jean Steer, Flat Rock, North Carolina
“Pappy’s description of Maine: ‘Son I have seen the whole world and thank almighty God for bringing me home again.’ ”
Thomas M. Gaubert, DeSoto, Texas
“It is where the toxicity of modern life washes off, and I recharge. I get to breathe air and hear sounds that are still as our maker intended. In Maine, life still makes some sense.” John Blankinship, Cornwall, New York
As a writer, defining the essence of Maine should come easily. I love this state, and I have an incredible affinity with my fellow ‘natives’, and with those who came here ‘from away’ because this state and her people are incomparable. But as I sit here digesting the new information in the Highland Wind LLC permit application, and as I recognize that life here in Maine will never be the same for me, whether we succeed in our opposition to this misguided plan for our mountains, or not, I am kerflummoxed. The ‘essence’ of Maine is too far-reaching, too remarkable, for me to define it in a sentence or two. But for tonight, I think one word will suffice.
Sunflowers and a tire swing in Lexington Township, Maine
Borestone Mountain from the Onawa Trestle, Elliotsville Township, Maine
Kayaking in Greenwood Pond, Elliotsville Township, Maine
Snow at first light--Lexington Township, Maine
Bigelow Mountain, 1950's (Franklin Sargent photo)
Peace at Pease Brook (home) Lexington Township, Maine