Plans by the state to allow wind farms to build on all but 2 percent of state forest lands have been abandoned, according to a Department of Conservation and Natural Resources spokeswoman.
Chris Novak, agency director of communications, said Thursday that discussions had been ongoing but, because of efforts to attract people to the natural resources and develop ecotourism, the agency has pulled state forest lands in the 12-county area known as “The Wilds” out of the running.
“The Pennsylvania Wilds are off the table, along with all other state forest lands, except about two percent located in spots in the southcentral portions of the state, wherever there is adequate wind and ridge tops,” said John Quigley, DCNR director of legislation and strategic initiatives.
Quigley said the idea first was broached by DCNR Secretary Michael DiBerardinis more than two years ago in order to try to comply with the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards Act, signed into law by Gov. Ed Rendell on Nov. 30, 2004. The law requires that 18 percent of the electricity sold to retail customers in Pennsylvania comes from renewable and advanced energy sources within 15 years.
According to DCNR’s Web site, that law will bring environmental and economic benefits to the state and positions Pennsylvania as a national leader in alternative and renewable energy development.
“Global warming is the single biggest long-term threat that we are responsible for protecting, and the secretary thought if we are going to talk the talk of sustainable development, we ought to walk the walk,” Quigley said. “We think it is our responsibility to take it seriously and we would be remiss if we didn’t ask the questions and try to find answers.”
Back then, the secretary wondered if it should be allowed in some limited fashion, he added.
“In the beginning when he posed the question about where it would be appropriate, we considered what areas should be immediately ruled out and decided on economically sensitive areas, important view shed areas, and recreational areas, and the results are that we have taken 98 percent off the table,” Quigley said.
Quigley said the agency has been “doing this all very transparently.”
“If we decide to consider wind development on the remaining 2 percent of state forest lands, we would have to get enabling legislation passed through the legislature to add wind power to the list of things already allowed, such as timbering and oil and gas leasing, communications towers, rights of way, transmission lines and cable TV lines,” he said.
By Cheryl R. Clarke
3 August 2007
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