Editor’s note: This letter to Garrett County Commissioner Fred Holliday was released to the Times-News for publication.
Dear Commissioner Holiday:
This letter is a follow-up to our phone conversation in which I expressed concern about Synergic’s proposal to place wind turbines on Four Mile Ridge in Eastern Garrett County.
I am asking the county commissioners to reverse their decision supporting placement of wind turbines on privately owned Garrett County ridges and vigorously pursue strategies that would prevent this use of private land in our county. It is very clear to me that Maryland’s politicized Public Service Commission will not safeguard the citizens of Garrett County.
Furthermore, our county’s influence pales in comparison to that of our far Eastern counties and state government. As was discussed at the Jan. 30 public hearing at Garrett College, Garrett County is seen as the path of least resistance for the state of Maryland to meet her alternative energy mandates.
I would like for our county to make it very clear that we are NOT the path of least resistance in the state of Maryland! When we spoke last week about the Jan. 30 meeting, you commented on the overwhelming opposition to wind turbines on public land and that many in attendance either did not oppose or express their views about wind turbines on private land.
While I certainly cannot speak for others, what I heard at this hearing shaped my views about private land sites. I had been ambivalent before this very informative meeting, and I came to oppose private placement in Garrett County because the risks of environmental degradation and negative health effects outweigh projected gains.
As a supporter of conservation and alternatives to fossil fuels, I do feel that wind energy should be one strategy to both reduce our dependence on oil and address carbon dioxide emissions. However, wind turbines on Garrett County mountain ridges do not make financial or environmental sense. Wind turbines should be sited where they provide maximal gain and minimal negative effects.
The negative effects include: noise and visual disruption, affecting physical and mental health; bat and migrating bird endangerment; loss and fragmentation of habitat; property devaluation; and scenic view degradation.
Having recently read the newly posted Garrett County Comprehensive Plan chapters, I am also very concerned about effects on the economic health of Garrett County.
I would direct your attention to Chapters 7 (Sensitive Areas) and 11 (Economic Development). From my reading of these chapters, I am struck by two issues: (1) the dependency of our county’s economic health on the quality of our natural environment, particularly our forestry and tourism industries, and (2) the vulnerability of our sensitive areas because of few local regulatory mechanisms. Wind turbines towering at 400′ on our mountain ridges will affect much, much more than the private acreage on which their concrete pads rest!
The greatest potential for economic growth in our county is eco-tourism. Without the tourism-hospitality industry at Deep Creek Lake, our county might be as poor as some of our West Virginia neighboring counties. Case in point: Look at how much stronger property values are in Garrett County than Allegany County! If we destroy the views and recreational opportunities, we stand to lose the jewel that we are.
If the county commissioners and citizens of Garrett County don’t stand firm on protecting our natural resources, it is clear that no one else will either. Neither Gov. O’Malley nor the PSC are on our side on this one. We must insist on environmental and public health reviews and that PSC members with ties to the wind industry recuse themselves from wind industry decisions. And, we must look at existing regulations (state and local), in the face of no zoning, for creative ways to protect our county’s precious resources.
One final note I would like to make. These wind turbine companies are limited liability companies. It is my understanding that LLC shareholders’ personal assets are protected in the event of business-related lawsuits. Please have our county attorney look into the liability such companies will face in about 15 years post-construction, when their wind turbines start falling apart, leaving 400-foot dysfunctional monstrosities with huge concrete footings. I can’t imagine that private property owners think it will be their responsibility to clean up the wind industries’ messes. Will the county or state pay for these clean-ups?
Thank you for listening to my concerns. I look forward to seeing you at the March 3 and 6 public hearings.
(eastern Garrett County resident)
3 March 2008
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