DNR officials announced that industrial wind development seemed appropriate for state land in Garrett County because so much private land will soon be planted with massive wind turbines. Given last year’s legislative wind deregulation bill, so rife with cronyism, they’re right. Now all a limited liability wind corporation need do to set up shop in western Maryland is apply to the PSC, negotiate in secret with the grid for transmission line access, and get the PSC to hold a public hearing in the area. Even if 500 residents came to the hearing to oppose the project, with only a few approving, this outpouring would have no outcome on the permit. The hearing is simply window dressing to let the people know what is happening, not to allow them to affect the outcome. This is how democracy works these days, if you live in western Maryland.
The first of these applications has surfaced from our old nemesis Clipper, now calling itself Criterion. It plans to put 28 430-foot turbines along Backbone Mountain. It will likely be joined by others in the next year, seeking to place around hundreds of turbines around the area on private land atop Four-Mile Ridge, the Big Savage, Meadow, Backbone, and Dan’s mountains. And no one will be able to do a thing about it. The state’s DNR is a formal business partner for these initiatives.
Cheerleading for this development are the commissioners of Allegany and Garrett counties, their staff, and most members of the respective planning commissions. When private land is covered with windscrapers, the state surely will return to make our public land compatible with the new wind terrain. Because our local officials have resisted all efforts to protect the counties from this outrageous development (and in Allegany County even reversed what protection did exist), they have turned them into a vineyard growing the lowest hanging fruit for wind developers.
The Allegany/Garrett Sportsmen’s Association has the issue right. Let’s join with them to protect western Maryland from these wind hustlers, keeping their looming, sprawling machines away from the region. The main reason they aren’t threatening to infest the Chesapeake Bay is that local government there has height and setback requirements to protect the public. Let’s insist that our leaders do the same here before it’s too late. Our mountains and quality of life deserve a better fate.
7 February 2008
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