More than 30 local residents attended the Garrett County commissioners’ public session on Tuesday at the courthouse to hear the officials’ stance on placing wind turbines on public land. But the residents will have to wait until February to hear that opinion.
Commission chairman Denny Glotfelty said the board would delay its statement on the issue until after the Department of Natural Resources held public hearings at Garrett College on Jan. 30 and in Annapolis on Jan. 31.
“That’s proper protocol,” Glotfelty said. “We have to give the state their opportunity and the people who might support it, whether we have our own personal feelings on the board here or not. I think it’s only fair.”
The DNR hearings will seek comment on a private company’s proposed project on state land in Garrett County. Pennsylvania-based U.S. Wind Force recently asked Maryland governor Martin O’Malley for leases in Potomac and Savage River state forests to clear an estimated 400 acres and to construct up to 100 40-story tall wind turbines.
“We’re going to listen to your commentary, and we’re going to absorb your commentary, and we’re going to make a decision after the meetings that the state has,” Glotfelty said.
And residents gave the commissioners plenty “to absorb.” A show of hands indicated that nearly everyone in the room was against the project. Twelve persons voiced their opposition, citing the project’s negative impact on natural resources, tourism, real estate values, quality of life, and other factors.
One resident favored the project, but with certain limitations.
“I think there is a good argument for allowing the wind turbines on state property, but on a selective basis,” Troy Ellington told the commissioners. “You would not want to put wind turbines in environmentally sensitive areas. There are a lot of things [to consider]. You’re not deciding the placement of them. You’re deciding if you’re going to allow them or not.”
He encouraged the commissioners to take the position of allowing the structures on a “site-by-site” consideration.
Others disagreed. Former state delegate DeCorsey Bolden said going on a one-by-one basis would give companies a “foot in the door” and lead to numerous wind turbines being built in the county. He asked the commissioners to make a decision before the state hearings.
“Your input is going to have an impact on the outcome of this,” he told them. “You’re elected officials, and we ought to know that you’re either for or against it.”
Former state senator John Bambacus said, to him, trying to decide if turbines should be placed on state lands was a “no brainer.”
“The people of Maryland own our state forests,” he said. “It’s not up to the commissioners, it’s not up to the governor to sell it to anybody for any reason.”
Bambacus urged the commissioners to place a moratorium on the sighting and construction of wind turbines on both private and public properties. He noted that wind energy was a new matter to address and that state and local governments did not have anything to deal with set backs, noise violations, construction permits, or other issues.
“We’re rushing to judgment on a matter that most of us don’t know a whole lot about,” Bambacus said. “And when I tend not to know anything, I tend to put the brakes on it.”
He noted that Senate Bill 516 passed during the last General Assembly session, and “basically gutted” any type of permitting process for turbine construction.
“It was fast tracked in the interest of wind developers only, not the people,” he said about the bill.
Jim Stanton did not want that to happen again during this year’s legislative session, which began yesterday. He urged the county officials to express their opinions now. “You guys really need to be on the front lines in this General Assembly session, ” he told them.
“I haven’t been able to substantiate a single claim made by any wind developer,” said Jon Boone, who has testified several times on wind turbines before the Public Service Commission (PSC). He called wind energy “scam technology.”
“This is a technology that’s not really going to work,” Boone said. “And once it gets put up, it’s extremely expensive to take down.”
He noted the 64 turbines proposed for the 3,000 foot ridge of Meadow Mountain would be taller than all but one building in Baltimore, Schafer Towers. “You’ll be able to see them every where for generations,” Boone said.
He also indicated that those turbines would not produce very much electricity.
“They will generate, on average, over the year not more than about 40 megawatts into a grid system that generates at peak load times 140,000 megawatts,” Boone said. “So you can see how piffling it is. And it will take up about 1,300 acres, not 400 acres.” That will be the actual amount of land impacted after all the access roads and other things have been done to construct the turbines, he indicated.
“Nationwide, there’s been no turbine use on federal or state lands,” Boone added. “This is a major precedent-setting move by the American Wind Energy Association. If it happens here, it could happen anywhere. And they (wind companies) would love to be able to get the subsidies involved that would allow them to place their turbines on public lands because it would be so much cheaper.”
Jane Avery said she was tired of people “passing a buck” and “Band-Aid” approaches when it comes to solving the energy problem.
“We need to suit our educational system and other ways of looking at things, especially our values, towards the preservation of energy and not exploiting things until we know exactly what is going to happen,” she said.
Implying that “the buck stops here,” Avery handed each of the commissioners a dollar bill and said, “Gentlemen, you need to fight for our county, not for what everybody tells you you’re suppose to think, but for what you think we need to do to preserve it. Make a decision and fight for it!”
“I oppose. I oppose. I oppose,” Jeff Conner said about wind turbines. He said wind energy was not reliable. He noted that the county is most windy at night and in the wintertime, yet energy is mainly used in the summertime. “And that’s when most wind mills just barely turn,” Conner said. “They don’t generate energy.”
It would take about 3,000 wind turbines to equal the same amount of energy that the Mt. Storm (W.Va.) Power Station produces, he said.
Conner said wind energy was “green” – green for the wind companies that benefit from federal government tax dollars.
“The only people who will benefit from this financially will be the people who will never have a presence in this county,” said Russell Bounds, who has also testified before the PSC. Bounds said he once asked a politician in Annapolis, “Why wind mills in Garrett County?” Bounds was told that the county was “a rural minority and the path of least resistance.”
“That’s why they want to put them here,” Bounds said, and asked everyone not to let the county “be a stepping stone for corporate greed.”
Barbara Pritts said she was “astounded” that the governor would even consider leasing state lands.
“I’m just asking you to have the foresight to conserve our natural resources,” she told the commissioners. “Turn down wind mills in the parks in Garrett County.”
She described the parks as “precious commodities” for future generations to enjoy and asked the commissioners to not be remembered in history as the ones who gave away that resource.
“Don’t be afraid to make a stand,” she said. “The people will remember you for it.”
Glotfelty thanked the residents and encouraged them to attend the DNR events. “It is very important that you are there to talk to the DNR and state people,” he said.
The public hearings are scheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 30, from 6:30 until 9 p.m. in the Garrett College auditorium and Thursday, Jan. 31, from 6:30 until 9 p.m. in the Arundel Center, Room 161, 44 Calvert Street, Annapolis.
10 January 2008
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding