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Garrett residents hope proposed wind project gets proper review  

When the Maryland Public Service Commission comes to Garrett County on Thursday evening, local residents are hoping that the county commissioners will request that the state not give Clipper Windpower an exemption on the commission’s review process.

“This exemption process was established last year, that some power-generating processes would not have to go through policy because of the energy crunch,” Jim “Smokey” Stanton said at the county commission meeting Tuesday. “Seventy megawatts becomes the issue … (The PSC is) not going to look at any of those issues. They don’t look at any siting questions.”

Clipper Windpower has proposed to downsize from 40 turbines generating up to 101 megawatts of electricity to 28 turbines generating up to 70 megawatts, enough to power up to 70,000 homes.

Under state law passed last year, the project would be small enough to avoid some of the regulatory hurdles and public scrutiny that come with wind energy development.

Stanton said he fears what an exemption might bypass in terms of environmental and economic impact, and hopes that the commissioners would show some kind of opposition to the PSC moving this project forward without the normal review process.

This was also Mountain Lake Park Mayor Leo Martin’s concern. He said that in reference to the land now owned by the county that was once property of the Garrett County Sanitary District, he feels that the town may have made an error in judgment in 2003 when it approved of Clipper’s plans to build there.

At the time, town officials felt there would be a series of environmental investigations for the land, which holds much of the town’s water source, he said.

Martin said that with the concerns for water quality, he feels that an exemption to let Clipper bypass the process could negatively affect the town’s water supply.

“There needs to be a study,” Martin said. “Even with wells, that (area) is going to be the main source of water. We should never have approved it in the first place, but when I make a mistake, I try to fix it.”

He asked that the commissioners request to the PSC that there be an environmental study, particularly on the impact to the town’s water supply, before Clipper is allowed to proceed.

Stanton said that he has concerns that the new opportunity for companies to avoid the PSC review process would not account for industrial wind turbines. He said that this is the first wind development to attempt to avoid the traditional PSC processes through the legislation passed last year.

In a letter he also gave to the commissioners, he said, “Garrett County cannot rely on an untried exemption process to protect our interests.”

The commissioners agreed to discuss the issue and the concerns of both men following the meeting.

Commissioner Fred Holliday said that while he didn’t expect to be able to attend the PSC hearing, he would ensure that if he decided to make that recommendation to the PSC, he would do so in writing.

The hearing is scheduled Thursday at 7 p.m. in Room 224 of the Garrett College Continuing Education Building.

The county commissioners recently agreed with residents who asked them to request the PSC to extend the public comment period for 30 days past the hearing.

By Sarah Moses

Cumberland Times-News

5 March 2008

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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