Wednesday, May 4, 2011
Wednesday’s editorial “Nothing to Cheer About…” regarding Angus King’s temporary withdrawal of his application for a wind turbine development in Highland was published in all three of Maine Today Media’s newspapers. If there were any questions remaining about the bias of this publisher in the matter of industrial wind development, they’ve been answered.
Quote (MTM): “Opponents of wind power are no-doubt celebrating…”
Did MTM editors call any ‘opponents’ to see if they were cheering? I spoke with many--and often, the opposite was true. We aren’t naïve, and we recognize that Mr. King is gaming the system. Maine’s Expedited Wind Law is great when it works in the wind industry’s favor, but that abbreviated time-frame proved to be a bane for Highland Wind when their project was challenged by the MDIFW. And lest anyone think this report came as a surprise to the developers, the MDIFW states they “provided technical assistance and consultations to this project since 2007. Despite considerable discussions and previous project modifications, an array of concerns remain unresolved…”
Quote(MTM): “They are not cheering because they love the Roaring Brook mayfly, or are appreciators of the northern bog lemming…”
How are the editors so in tune with ‘wind opponents’? Did they ask how they feel about the ecosystems and environment of Maine? Do they know how many opponents of mountaintop industrial wind are dedicated individuals who appreciate the special qualities of the Maine woods? How many of them guide nature tours in these hills? And are the editors so narrow-minded that they are unable to acknowledge that many other species are affected every time one is endangered or lost? They trivialize a mayfly—but that species has thus far been found only in Maine. Both the above-mentioned species have already been impacted by the Kibby and Sisk wind projects.
Quote(MTM): “opposition has come from people who don't want to look at tall white towers and rotating turbines…”
Quote(Angus King in May of 2010): “It’s all about the view.”
Statements such as those have one purpose: to try to turn public opinion against opponents of industrial wind. To belittle us as selfish elitists who put our ‘back yard’ view above other, more important things.
That is a warped reality.
A view has value, yes. It’s evidenced by the fact that real estate with gorgeous vistas command higher prices on the market, and in towns’ assessment books. “Views” are an integral part of Maine’s celebrated “Quality of Place”, and their value brings billions of tourism dollars to our state’s economy. Yes, scenic value is important. I wouldn’t be surprised if the owners of MTM and Highland Wind LLC enjoy some lovely views from their own homes.
A quick perusal of MTM’s own online comments section would have quickly proven that ‘wind opponents’ have diverse and vital concerns, including Mainers’ health and well-being, protection of our environment, and distress at having to foot the bill for the $1.4Billion transmission costs needed to add ‘wind’ to our energy mix. We are concerned with apparent conflicts of interest as Maine’s leaders chose an unreliable, intermittent, expensive and un-storable energy source which was abandoned 100 years ago for good cause. We are worried about permanently scarring our fragile slopes and ridges, and removing thousands of acres of carbon-sequestering trees. We fear for bald eagles, bats… and yes. Some really are concerned about small rodents and insects, especially as they pertain to the larger picture.
Quote(MTM): “Through the expedited permitting law passed by the Legislature, investors could expect to find a clear path to approval.”
A clear path to approval is exactly what the authors of that law expected, and many of them were heavily invested in the outcome. In a letter from Rob Gardiner (partner to Angus King and president of Independence Wind) to Alec Giffen, chair of the Governor’s Task Force on Wind Power, Gardiner attempts to influence the writing of the law which gave wind developers the advantage over Maine citizens, forestalling their objections to wind developments.
Gardiner states: “In my opinion, the biggest sticking point is visual impact. Under the standard of "fitting harmoniously into the environment", wind is at a serious disadvantage. Because it involves 250' high structures (King and Gardiner’s are 400+ feet tall) that are usually on high ridges, the visual impacts are significant.”
“An immediate executive order followed by legislation that specifically removes the presumption of negative visual impact from wind farms would go a long way toward setting the stage for balanced regulatory review.”
“A second element of such executive order and legislation should be to declare that reducing air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions is a public benefit, and that wind farms can make a significant contribution toward a more sensible energy mix for Maine. Therefore, any regulatory agency should accept these positions and not waste time receiving further evidence and debating them. To the extent that regulators are charged with balancing the benefits of any project against the negative impacts, these beneficial aspects should be "a given" for wind farms.”
“…wind farms ought not to be expected to help purchase conservation lands or do other types of mitigation. Wind farms ARE mitigation for our energy consumption habits and for the impacts of fossil fuel consumption.”
“I understand that preserving Maine's "quality of place" is an important goal for your task force. I fully accept that having wind farms everywhere might ruin that quality.”
"I recognize that LURC feels overwhelmed… This may need attention, but it is a short-term phenomenon. Don't change the rules, provide the necessary resources. The Governor can do that... But creating a new agency or shifting responsibilities will, in actuality, make it harder for developers.”
Yes, investors like those hoping to develop Highland’s mountains certainly expected—and worked hard to get—a ‘clear path to approval’.
Quote(MTM): “any Mainer concerned about an unfriendly business climate and a propensity for over-regulation should look at this frustrating process and wonder if there is anything to cheer about.”
MTM certainly hasn’t supported Governor LePage, but it’s apparent they are attempting to use his administration’s goals of bringing jobs to Maine (and reducing environmental regulations in order to do so) to their advantage. Such statements cloud the issue; but if new, full-time jobs are MTM’s goal, perhaps the editors should read the Highland Wind LLC permit application to see exactly how many will be supplied by this development, and how many American tax-payer dollars must be spent to provide that handful of technical positions.
Maine Today Media has reporters who have been in the field and spoken at length with many ‘wind opponents’. Those journalists know the scoop. MTM’s editorial board would do well to deal in truths rather than biased rhetoric intended to sway the public’s perception of Maine’s wind energy plan.
Top and second Photo: First Wind's Rollins project, credit: Friends of Lincoln Lakes
3rd and 4th photos: Iberdrola Renewable's access point for met towers erected in Lexington Twp., taken by Kaz Pease, November 2010.