Maine Rep. Thomas Saviello made no secret of his opposition to a plan to install 30 electricity-generating wind turbines in Redington Township.
“I didn’t see an economic benefit for us,” Saviello, U-Wilton, said of Maine Mountain Power’s proposal, which was rejected by the Land Use Regulation Commission in January. “If they were going to come with that power and light up (School Administrative District) 58 I’d have to think about it differently, but this was just going to go into a grid.”
Saviello believes that both residents and Maine Mountain Power should have understood long before the Redington project was ever proposed that the area was not a good fit for a large-scale turbine project. The state, he believes, should be making those decisions now, before another project lands on its doorstep.
“Let’s develop criteria where wind power should go, where it fits,” Saviello said.
Saviello’s bill, LD 1644, would require LURC to review and establish site requirements for wind power. The legislation, which has been sent to the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee and is likely to have a public airing within the next few weeks, calls for a seven-member committee of representatives of all sides of the wind power argument.
The committee would precisely define the requirements of “community benefit.” Those in favor of the Redington plan believed it would benefit the community, but Saviello’s bill calls for the committee to define benefit and community – more than just the township of Redington would have been affected by the project, he said.
“We’re defining community,” Saviello said. “It’s not just the unorganized territory; it’s the town around it. And what’s the benefit? If we’re going to shut down a coal plant, show us where.”
The bill calls for the creation a list of areas in which wind turbines would not be allowed.
Because the commission would work under LURC, the stakeholder group would only look at unorganized territories, but Saviello said the scope could easily be expanded.
“I’ve talked to a number of people who say we really need this statewide,” Saviello said.
The bill calls for a process similar to that followed in the 1980s, when government incentives for hydro-electricity sent the state scurrying to develop a list of rivers where dams would be prohibited, Saviello said. In the 1990s there was a proposal for a large wind turbine project in western Maine, which also was motivated by government subsidies. That project, like proposed hydro-dams, went away when the subsidies did, Saviello said.
“Why are people interested in wind power? Because there are significant subsidies,” he said. “If they went away would companies still be interested?”
Kenneth Kimball, director of research for the Appalachian Mountain Club, approves of Saviello’s plan. The club has conducted analyses in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont to map mountain ranges that would appeal to turbine developers, and added an overlay to show areas of most ecological importance, or with scenic or economic value.
“This concept is not novel,” Kimball said. “There is no site that is without any conflict at all, but you can develop a scale that shows you the sites with the least amount of conflict. By doing the assessment you can help industry by being clear where there is conflict so you don’t get train wrecks like Redington.”
By Craig Crosby
Kennebec Journal & Morning Sentinel
31 March 2007
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