Although fiercely divided on whether wind turbines should be sited in western Maine, the audience at the Maine Land Use Regulation Commission’s hearing found some common ground.
Everyone, they agreed, should reduce dependence on fossil fuels, preserve the environment, and create good jobs in rural Maine. Many expressed concern that their children and grandchildren would inherit a planet with serious problems, but that’s where the agreement ended.
At the Wednesday hearing in Sugarloaf/USA’s base lodge, about 50 people attended LURC’s evening hearing. Director of Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust and Phillips resident Lloyd Griscom asked commissioners to consider the long-term effects of encroachment on traditional wildlife habitat.
“Please keep this common ground available to many,” Griscom said. “Please do not approve this project.”
Franklin County Commissioner Gary McGrane, his voice breaking with emotion, said “we have a responsibility to protect our environment.” He and other county commissioners voted at a recent meeting to support the project.
Commissioner Stephen Wight recused himself from discussions on the proposed 18-turbine wind farm near Sugarloaf Mountain to assure the hearings centered on the Black Nubble project rather than on doubts about his impartiality.
Duluth Wing, a retired forest ranger from Eustis, suggested that many other mountains needed protection, and he hoped commissioners would have equal consideration for the protection of Maine people.
Lloyd Cutler, a selectman from Carrabassett Valley, suggested that environmental groups should take more of a leadership role to provide alternatives to the eventual loss of petroleum as a fuel source.
Another project supporter pointed to the long-term health risks for Maine people.
“We have 60,000 supporters in Maine,” American Lung Association spokeswoman Michelle Caliandro said. “We need to do all we can to reduce air pollution and emissions.”
Opponents to the proposed wind farm criticized Conservation Commissioner Patrick McGowan for attempting to poll the commission members after a January vote defeated a larger project that would have included Black Nubble and the adjacent Redington Range. McGowan has apologized but denies trying to influence the outcome.
The Natural Resources Council of Maine supports the project. But Maine Audubon, Appalachian Mountain Club, the Maine Appalachian Trail Club and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy have hired William Plouffe, an environmental attorney from Portland, to represent their opposition.
The hearing on Black Nubble Wind Farm, one of several projects requesting LURC’s approval, accepted public comment on the first two of the three days. Additional written comment will be accepted for 10 days after the hearing.
By Valerie Tucker
21 September 2007
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