The Rendell administration might push to open Pennsylvania’s state forests and parks to wind farm development, a Cabinet official said yesterday.
Michael DiBerardinis, the secretary of conservation and natural resources, said the administration was “close to a decision” on allowing wind turbines to be erected on public lands controlled by the governor. Legislative approval would be necessary, he told people attending the Penn Future Clean Energy Conference in East Pennsboro Twp.
“We’re facing a global crisis on climate change,” said DiBerardinis, whose department administers the state parks and forests. “We can’t have our cake and eat it, too. Siting wind turbines on public lands is an imperative, not an option.”
His announcement was cued by Penn Future conference director John Hanger and appeared to be a trial balloon. DiBerardinis conceded that not everyone will think wind turbines in parks and forests are a good idea. He said he expects “robust debate” on the proposal.
Rep. Camille “Bud” George, D-Clearfield, chairman of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, was skeptical about the idea and said his committee will need to carefully study the proposal.
“Those lands belong to the people of Pennsylvania, pure and simple,” George said. “Pennsylvanians revere their wild places, and they should always remain a part of our psyche. I don’t think the grandeur of the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania should be sullied by wind turbines.”
He said DeBerardinis was correct that such measures at least need to be discussed, given the huge energy price increases the state is facing. “I think he would also agree that burning the last stick of furniture to heat the house is not a realistic solution,” George said.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission does not prohibit the building of wind turbines. But it sets conditions for approval and has said none of the wind developers who initially expressed interest followed through.
The Game Commission is not under the direct control of the governor, but the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources is.
DiBerardinis said wind turbine development would need to be reconciled with the department’s mission of stewardship of public lands.
“Pennsylvania forests are most at risk from global climate change,” he said. “We have to get real about a lot of these things. There is no perfect energy source.”
Later in the conference, Ellen Lutz, director of development for Spanish wind developer Gamesa, said there is growing opposition to wind farms in Pennsylvania. More effort is needed to educate the public about “the facts and myths” of wind power, she said.
Sam Enfield, director of development for PPM Atlantic Renewable, said people often ask why wind turbines need to be placed on the state’s mountain ridges. He said it was more economical to build the tall turbines on ridges than in valleys.
“That’s where the development needs to be,” Enfield said.
There was also comment on the belief of some wind energy critics that the turbines are visual pollution.
Brent Alderfer, executive vice president of Iberdrola Renewable Energies, another Spanish company, said, “At least half of us think these things are absolutely beautiful, kinetic sculpture at its finest.”
Lutz said she did not believe wind turbines are visual pollution. Pollution is mercury emissions, sulfur dioxide and global warming, she said.
By David DeKok
1 June 2007