A multibillion dollar Canadian energy company proposing to put 44 wind turbines on mountains in northern Franklin County got a mixed reception from county commissioners Tuesday.
Two commissioners said they felt that using wind as an alternative energy source was a good idea. One was concerned about the effect on recreation of 400-foot tall, lighted turbines and miles of transmission lines. Another questioned whether the developer, TransCanada, might one day reroute the energy to Canada rather than the Northeastern U.S.
“I am very much in support of anything we can do to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” said Commissioner Gary T. McGrane of Jay. “We will have to compromise on some of those issues.”
“I see absolutely no problem,” said Commissioner Fred Hardy of New Sharon. “If we want electricity, we have to put up with this.”
Commissioner Meldon Gilmore of Freeman Township, whose district includes all the unorganized townships in Franklin County, said he has heard only negative comments about the project. People don’t want to see the mountains scarred and say the profits taken from Maine’s mountains will only benefit a Canadian company, Gilmore said.
“No one who has called me is in favor of it,” he said.
The board took no position on TransCanada’s $270 million Kibby Wind Power Project. Last week, the company filed an application with the Maine Land Use Regulatory Commission to rezone portions of the protected zones on Kibby Mountain and Kibby Range near the Canadian border. During construction, 250 people would be employed for 12 to 18 months, with 10 to 12 permanent maintenance jobs upon completion, according to company literature.
The electricity generated would be capable of powering about 50,000 homes and would go into the electrical grid in Maine and New England, TransCanada’s literature states.
Company spokeswoman Elizabeth Swain told commissioners that TransCanada, which would pay about $1 million in state property taxes, would give the towns of Stratton and Eustis $100,000 a year to show its support for those communities.
But Bob Weingarten, spokesman for The Friends of the Boundary Mountains, an environmental group opposed to the project, called the money a bribe.
On Tuesday, he said the project was another step toward industrializing the Boundary Mountains. His organization is among several that also oppose Maine Mountain Power’s 30-turbine wind power project in Reddington Township near Carrabassett Valley. LURC’s staff has recommended approval of that project.
Weingarten said TransCanada will use the Kibby project as an industrial tax write-off by earning “production tax credits” even if no wind power is produced. He also said the company can decide to run a transmission line to Quebec at any time after it receives LURC approval.
“There is nothing that can legally stop them from sending that energy to Canada,” he said.
Swain told county commissioners that TransCanada has no plans to build transmission lines to Canada.
“We are only a small group against a $7 billion pipeline company from Canada that promises to be clean and green. But the truth be told, the Boundary Mountains are not the appropriate place,” Weingarten said.
By Betty Jespersen
Staff Writer Kennebec Journal & Morning Sentinel
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