Congratulations to LURC commissioners for upholding the rule of law in their rejection of the proposed wind energy complex on Redington and Black Nubble mountains.
The Land Use Regulation Commission was created three and a half decades ago to keep the wild places in Maine wild. The law says new developments must “fit harmoniously into the existing natural environment.” There is no exemption for wind power.
It’s hard to imagine a site more in violation of the clear language of the statute. Or for that matter, what wouldn’t comply if this industrial complex should somehow be upheld by the courts as permissible. The proposal envisioned 30 four-hundred-foot-high, lighted turbines, some located just a mile from a 2,000 mile long national scenic trail.
To suggest as many have done that commissioners violated the law is absurd. The representative of the Attorney General’s Department at the decision meeting tried to be polite to the LURC staff, but his essential message was that it would have been extremely difficult and perhaps impossible to sustain the staff recommendation for approval should it be challenged in the courts. His comments essentially said that the staff was wrong when it claimed in news reports that the Attorney General staff had given it’s okay to the draft.
A key opponent of the project was the Maine Appalachian Trail Club, a tiny organization dedicated to protecting the trail from encroachment. MATC hired the lead opposition lawyer and paid the technical experts, investing, with help from the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, $180,000 of scarce funds to oppose the wind energy application…
MATC members clear the blow downs, bridge the bogs, and cut the brush that make the Maine section of the trail the envy of trail clubs up and down the Appalachian mountains. These are not wealthy, elitist, NIMBYs. No volunteer group in Maine does more hard, on the ground work. Last year 200 MATC members contributed 20,000 hours of volunteer work on behalf of the trail. Each of the several votes by these people who know the trail best has been unanimous in opposition.
Pamela Underhill, director of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, said it most eloquently, telling LURC commissioners:
“I’m here because protection of this unusual and wonder-inspiring unit of our national park system matters deeply to me, to the National Park Service and to millions of Americans. I’m here because”¦ it is a national treasure of immense proportion, and it is a gift to the American people ““ past, present and future ““ from the American people.”
She added, “The concerns of the National Park Service over the proposed Redington wind farm are based solely upon its location adjacent to one of the most remote and scenic sections of the Appalachian Trail. The National Park Service supports the development of renewable energy in appropriate locations with appropriate environmental protections. We have not opposed some half dozen proposed wind farms in some proximity to the Trail in locations where special Trail values would not be compromised.”
MATC also is not opposed to wind energy. Members voted just this month not to oppose the Kibby Mountain wind power proposal, though this project also would be visible from the trail. Why? Members recognized, rightly, that there is a vast difference between an in-your-face industrial development on ridges abutting the narrow trail corridor, and proposals involving distant ridges.
Global warming is a real threat that this country must somehow recognize and combat. But a token wind project adjacent to the 2000-mile Appalachian Trail is not the place to start. The many miles along the open Saddleback ridge line and north through the twin Crocker Mountains rank among the wildest sections of the entire trail. The Redington/Black Nubble proposal would reverse that happy situation. The trail would overnight become among the most developed sections.
There are many ways to combat global warming. The most critical is conservation. No amount of wind energy will be sufficient. We must somehow reduce our wasteful ways. The true NIMBYs are not those that would protect a national treasure. Rather they are those who are too lazy and selfish to make the slight effort needed to conserve. The NIMBYs are those who grasp at any excuse to maintain their effortless comfort.
Please remember, that it is still not necessary to destroy the last wild places in order to save our planet.
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