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Fate of 'Nubble-only' wind project ahead

The Commissioners of the LURC will be meeting in Bangor today, Wednesday, June 6 to determine whether to accept or reject a recent request by Maine Mountain Power LLC.

A letter dated May 9, 2007 by MMP requested LURC to reopen the public hearing and public record because it had re-evaluated its initial petition in response to both the opposition that raised concern about the project and based on a recommendation by the Natural Resource Council of Maine.

During the lengthy Public Hearings NCRM suggested that the petitioner revise its proposal to develop only Black Nubble Mountain to reduce the size of the development area and potential for impacts. According to Marcia Spencer Famous, Senior Planner for the LURC Staff, “NCRM also presented testimony that the reduced-sized wind farm could be economically viable.” MMP rejected that notion in the Public Hearings which is part of the public record.

MMP initially submitted a petition to rezone 1,004 acres in the Redington Pond Range and Black Nubble Mountains which consisted of the development of a 90 megawatt wind farm including 30 turbines. At that time the petitioner clearly stated that both mountain ranges were needed for the project to be economically viable.

On Jan. 24, 2007, the commission considered staff’s recommendation to approve the project as proposed by the petitioner. The commission did not act on the staff recommendation, but instead instructed its staff to draft a denial decision by a 6 to 1 vote. The commission’s comments reflected some of the issues raised by the opposing intervenors.

The Commission will hear Maine Mountain Power’s request to re-open the hearing record on June 6 on the proposed preliminary development plan and rezoning for a scaled-down project on Black Nubble Mountain only.

“MMP requests that the hearing record be reopened to amend its petition to rezone primarily the parcel located on Black Nubble Mountain. In the reopened record, MMP wishes to highlight the existing testimony in the record that would clarify the Black Nubble Mountain proposal, including evidence regarding reduced visual and habitat impacts and clearing based upon the scaled-back proposal. MMP also wishes to provide additional information on the economic viability of a Black Nubble-only project. As part of its request, MMP asks the commission to table action on the original project (that included development of Redington as well as Black Nubble Mountain), so that a reopening of the hearing can take place in an efficient manner,” according to a Spencer Famous memorandum.

“Intervenors opposed to the requested record reopening asked that the commission act on the original proposal covering Redington Pond Range and Black Nubble Mountain instead of allowing a reopening of the hearing after the record has closed and the commission directed the staff to prepare a denial decision for the commission to consider. “These intervenors stated the view that if a reopening were to be permitted, the process would be confusing and time-consuming because the information on the Black Nubble Mountain site would be difficult to separate from the Redington site, since the testimony and documents are not distinct from one another. These intervenors stated the view that a Black Nubble-only proposal is a significantly different project requiring additional studies and extensive testimony.”

The LURC staff came out and made a recommendation for a limited reopening of the hearing to allow evidence to be extracted from the record and supplemented as necessary in order to provide due process and a meaningful basis for the commission to decide the merits of MMP’s Black Nubble-only proposal.

It is time again for the commissioners to decide if they accept a recommendation of its staff or accept a draft of the initial project’s denial.

Spencer Famous has also prepared a lengthy 42-page findings of fact for the commission which will consider a denial of Maine Mountain Power’s proposal to rezone 1,004 acres to a D-PD Subdistrict for a windfarm on Redington Pond Range and Black Nubble Mountain at the June 6, 2007 commission meeting in Bangor.

By Dave Hart
Irregular Staff

The Irregular

6 June 2007