Wind turbines were again discussed during the public commentary period of the Garrett County commissioners’ meeting on Tuesday. This time the focus was on the Maryland Public Service Commission’s 7 p.m. public hearing at Garrett College this evening.
California-based Clipper Windpower, now known as Criterion Power Partners, has filed an application with the Public Service Commission (PSC) for an exemption to the “Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity” issued to construct and operate wind turbines along Backbone Mountain. The PSC will accept comments on this application at the hearing.
Clipper received a PSC permit in 2005 to construct 40 turbines with a combined generating capacity of up to 101 megawatts of electricity. The company recently downsized its plans to 28 wind turbines, generating up to 70 megawatts.
Because of a new law, turbine opponents have expressed concerns that this smaller project will be fast-tracked through the state’s usual regulatory processes. Projects under 70 megawatts can apply for the exemption with the PSC.
“This exemption process was established last year [so] that some power-generating processes would not have to go through policy because of the energy crunch,” Oakland businessman James Stanton told the commissioners.
He indicated that the PSC’s main focus will now be on the 70 megawatt issue, not the environmental and economic impacts of the Clipper project. Stanton asked the commissioners to oppose the granting of the exemption to the PSC. He wants the project to go through the normal review processes.
Mountain Lake Park mayor Leo Martin made a similar request. He wants the commissioners to request that the PSC not grant Clipper’s exemption until water issues are resolved satisfactorily.
Three Clipper wind turbines are proposed for the vicinity of Landon’s Dam, which is a water resource for Mtn. Lake Park. The land was owned by the now defunct Garrett County Sanitary Commission, but is now under the auspices of the county and its Department of Public Utilities (DPU).
In 2003, Mtn. Lake Park officials sent a letter to the Sanitary Commission approving an easement for Clipper to install the turbines in the Landon’s Dam area. Martin told the commissioners on Tuesday that he feels the town may have made an error in judgment.
The mayor noted that his town’s water system has experienced severe water shortages as recently as last summer. The DPU has been drilling test wells to find additional water sources for the town.
“Even with wells, [Landon’s Dam] is going to be the main source of water,” Martin said. “We should never have approved it (the easement) in the first place, but when I make a mistake, I try to fix it.”
He noted that the town did express concerns in its Sanitary Commission letter about protecting its water supply if the turbine project moved forward. According to Martin, however, the town never received any information from the Sanitary Commission or the county commissioners as to how the system would be protected.
Martin said a study needs to be conducted to evaluate what possible negative impacts the construction of turbines will have on the water table. He added that the Landon’s Dam area was a beautiful place.
“I’d hate to see it destroyed,” the mayor said.
Commissioners Fred Holliday and Denny Glotfelty told Martin and Stanton that they would discuss their concerns. Commissioner Ernie Gregg was unable to attend the meeting.
6 March 2008
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