The Maine Use Regulation Commission voted 6 to 1 on Wednesday, June 6 to reopen the Public Record for Maine Mountain Power’s wind farm proposal for Northern Franklin County.
A letter dated May 9, 2007 by MMP requested LURC to reopen the Public Hearing and Public Record because it had reevaluated its initial petition in response to both a strong opposition that raised concern about the project and on a modification recommendation proposed by the Natural Resource Council of Maine.
During the lengthy Public Hearing process, NCRM suggested that the petitioner revise its original proposal and develop only the Black Nubble Mountain Range to reduce the size of the development area which will reduce the 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.” At that time, MMP rejected that notion in the Public Hearings which is part of the original Public Record.
However, after re-evaluation of a one-mountain proposal, an 18-turbine, Black Nubble-only wind development is moving forward, or at least the Public Record has been reopened. “We are obviously very encouraged by LURC’s vote this morning. We believe that if our wind farm project is allowed to move forward that it will ultimately protect the beauty of Maine by helping to reduce the affects of global warming,” said Harley Lee, President of Endless Energy Corp. 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.
On Jan. 24, 2007, the commissioners considered a Staff Recommendation to approve the project as proposed by the petitioner. The commissioners did not act on the Staff Recommendation, but instead voted 6 to 1 against and instructed its staff to draft a denial decision. The commission’s comments reflected some of the issues raised by the opposing interveners.
On June 6, the LURC Commissioners heard Maine Mountain Power’s request to reopen the hearing record for a scaled-down project on Black Nubble Mountain only and will offer a limited reopening of the Public Record. A limited Public Hearing date has yet to be determined.
“We believe this scaled back project will provide many environmental, economic, and energy securities benefits to Maine,” said Dennis Bailey, spokesperson for MMP. “At the same time, our proposal will restrict development on Redington and mitigate many of the concerns raised by the commissioners and opponents to the original project.” Bailey said the new revised project places turbines several miles from the Appalachian Trail and “significantly reduces the potential scenic and environmental impact of the project, two of the most often voiced concerns of the original project.”
Opposition parties to the project are disappointed with LURC’s decision stating that LURC should have acted only on the vote of the commissioners to draft a project denial and believe that if a Black Nubble-only project should come forward, that process should start from the beginning. The second draft of a decision for denial has been prepared by the staff and is before the Attorney General’s Office. This denial draft could surface as early as the commissioners’ June meeting.
By David Hart
13 June 2007