How is it possible to transform a wild, fragile, 4,000-foot mountain environment, protected by law, into an industrial-scale power-production facility?
This project will come complete with cleared mountaintops, miles of new roads up steep slopes, power lines and expansive concrete slabs, and topped by 30 huge towers, some with blinking night lights, all with whirling blades and with each tower 40 stories high?
Easy. Just vote it so.
On Jan. 24, the seven commissioners of the Maine Land Use Regulation Commission, who have been appointed to represent the people of Maine in such matters, will vote on converting Maine mountaintops into industrial power production facilities.
The first proposed transformation would involve Redington and Black Nubble mountains, two jewels of the high-peaks region not far from Rangeley.
On Dec. 22, the LURC staff, apparently favoring the business interests of the prime applicant, Consolidated Edison of California, doing business under the name Maine Mountain Power, recommended approval of the huge power project.
The proposal is to place a large wind power facility on the tops of those two mountains. Now it is up to the commissioners to make the final decision whether this industrialization of these mountains should go forward or not.
At the moment, these fragile, untouched mountain tops on Redington and Black Nubble (like all mountain areas above 2,700 feet in LURC’s jurisdiction) are shielded from such development by zoning them as strictly protected areas.
To accept the LURC staff’s recommendation, the commissioners will first have to declare that these particular mountains are no longer worthy of protection and instead, are suddenly suitable for intensive industrial development. But if they so vote, they will be in effect setting an extremely important legal and political precedent that could transform any LURC-regulatred mountain protection zone into a development zone.
This is because LURC has no policy or regulations to define clearly whether Mountain A is OK to rezone for industrial development, while Mountain B is not. The rezoning of Redington and Black Nubble would essentially mean the end of zoning as an effective means of protecting wild, ecologically fragile Maine mountains.
If one fragile mountain protection zone can be so easily converted into an intensive industrial development zone, then any or all can be so changed. All it will take will be a simple vote, one mountain at a time.
And the fight over Redington and Black Nubble will pale into a minor skirmish when major new mountain wind-power developments are proposed.
Already, a Canadian firm has filed an application with LURC for an even larger wind-power development on and around beautiful Kibby Mountain, north of the Bigelow Mountain Range, in remote country near the Canadian border.
If the seven LURC commissioners vote to convert Redington and Black Nubble mountains, rubber-stamp approval at Kibby is a foregone conclusion. More will follow.
Since it is the central policy of Maine government to expedite and promote any and all business development and activity, it is difficult, even highly improbable, that any state agency such as LURC or the Department of Environmental Protection to declare an outright “no” to a request for any large development.
Usually, all these agencies will do is to attempt to minimize environmental impacts within the scope of a given proposed development. It appears this is the process that is occurring within LURC and may culminate with an approval of the Redington Mountain development.
The market forces and huge taxpayer subsidies that make wind-power development so attractive and profitable now will undoubtedly increase in the future.
We must hope, maybe even pray, that the seven LURC commissioners, who are commonsense Maine people, are aware of the far-reaching consequences of the vote they are about to take on Redington and Black Nubble.
Their decision will be far more important in the long run than the controversial pending Plum Creek proposal around Moosehead Lake.
Redington, in a sense, represents a dam’s floodgate for the industrialization of our mountains. The commissioners have the power to crank it open Â or keep it closed.
About the Author
Steve Clark (e-mail: email@example.com) of Shapleigh is a member of the Maine Appalachian Trail Club’s Wind Power Committee.
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