Despite last week’s ruling by state officials that could lead to final rejection of the proposed Redington wind power project in western Maine, Gov. John Baldacci said he remains committed to that form of renewable energy.
The governor did not question last Wednesday’s 6-1 vote by the Land Use Regulation Commission, saying that LURC “is an independent, citizen board” that must scrutinize each project in a balanced and measured way.
“They are responsible for evaluating projects like this one. Just because I support an expansion of wind energy does not exempt the project from the review process. These things have to be done in a reasonable way,” the governor told The Associated Press.
Maine Mountain Power, meanwhile, remained undecided Sunday on what its next step will be following the wilderness zoning board’s ruling against its $130 million project, which called for 30 wind turbines on Redington and Black Nubble mountains, spokesman Dennis Bailey said.
Bailey, noting that the project is not technically dead, said Maine Mountain’s backers are still considering options that range from withdrawing their application to trying to persuade more LURC board members to change their minds.
Last week, the commission voted to ask its staff, which had recommended approval, to submit a document outlining reasons to finally turn down the project. The action is seen as a procedural step toward rejection.
“We’re still mulling which way to go,” Bailey said Sunday. “There are options; there’s room to move.”
Bailey said Maine Mountain Power, a partnership between Endless Energy of Yarmouth and Edison Mission Group of California, has been encouraged by the reaction of some elected officials, individuals and newspaper editorials to the Redington rejection.
The Maine Sunday Telegram labeled the LURC decision “a shock and a disappointment.” In a reference to the state’s legislatively endorsed goal of increasing its renewable energy resources by 10 percent by 2017, the newspaper said the Redington project “would have been a credible step toward that goal.”
The day after LURC voted, the Lewiston Sun Journal said the action “is a clear statement that Maine lacks the vision, and political will, to change its energy habits.”
The same editorial also said LURC’s decision does not bode well for another major wind-power proposal in western Maine.
“Why would TransCanada continue its $270 million wind power project on 2,900 acres in Kibby Township, for example, given there is now serious doubt that LURC would approve it?” the opinion piece said.
The Alberta-vased TransCanada earlier this month filed an application with LURC for its 132-megawatt, 44-turbine project. The company has said it would like to begin construction in late 2007.
A third major wind-power project in Maine has just been completed. The $85 million Mars Hill project, with 28 turbines, is going online and will generate 42 megawatts of power.
In his statement on LURC’s action, Baldacci defended the governor-appointed LURC board and pointed to the Mars Hill project as evidence of his commitment to wind power.
“Wind energy is an important part of our efforts to reduce pollution and lessen the state’s dependence on foreign oil,” Baldacci said.
“I remain committed to increasing the amount of wind power generated in the state and will work with other projects, such as the one in Mars Hill, to make sure the industry expands. I support wind, the people I nominate to the board will support wind, but the projects have to be done in a responsible fashion.”
By Glenn Adams, Associated Press Writer
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