With little notice, the Maryland Public Service Commission has scheduled a hearing on a proposal by Criterion Power Partners, LLC, formerly known as Clipper Windpower, to downsize a Garrett County wind power project (“State sets hearing on altered Garrett wind power project,” Page 1B, Feb. 20 Times-News).
This expedited hearing is an attempt to bypass the PSC’s long-established environmental and public review process involving a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity for construction of electricity generators. To further confuse everyone, the PSC, in March, transferred the CPCN to Constellation Energy. Sound familiar? And, Allegany County is next in line.
The politicization of the PSC, once a consumer friendly agency, is a tragedy for all Marylanders. Now dominated by the power industry it purports to regulate, one can only hope that it will address adequate public safety, health, and environmental conditions and ensure that Criterion met its legal and ethical responsibilities and obligations.
State law and regulations were all but tossed-out with the passage of Senate Bill 566, and the environmental, health, and safety protections to protect our citizens scuttled as the then-chair of the Maryland Democratic Party and wind power developer Wayne Rogers, the top leadership of the Senate, House, and governor’s office, along with the massive assistance and persuasion of former speaker, and now-turned wind lobbyist, Casper R. Taylor, Jr.
Environmental review and protections for the public were gutted. There was no public purpose whatsoever in this bill. You and I will continue to pay for the tax subsidies and other incentives incurred in the passage of this bill.
And on top of all this, our own delegation did not even offer an amendment to include the possibility of “off-shore” wind turbines, for that would have surely killed the bill, and restored health, safety, and environmental protections.
The potential for the proposed Criterion industrial wind plant to create unlawful and harmful noise, devalue nearby properties, harm tens of thousands of migrating birds and bats, degrade and fragment sensitive forest interior habitat, denigrate local and state historical and scenic designations, and seriously diminish natural and historic viewshed areas is enormous.
The public needs another evidentiary hearing to sort out all of this. Otherwise, the PSC will be engaging in a deceptive arrangement with this limited liability developer.
John N. Bambacus
Bambacus is a former state senator representing Garrett and Allegany counties.
27 February 2008
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