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Citizens, government, industry in conflict?  

Possible wind energy industrialization of Garrett County has brought into focus the conflicts between needs and preferences of the individual citizen vis a vis the interests and desires of local government, state government and big industry.

Alternative energy sources and conservation are critical for meeting tomorrow’s energy demands. I believe Garrett County is currently embroiled in a struggle where local government, i.e., county commissioners and our local representatives are put to the test as to their role in meeting competing interests, protecting the county’s resources, and being proactive in representing the views and concerns of their constituency.

Evidence has recently been presented which suggests that, to some extent, the county commissioners have not been fully forthcoming in the matter of a lease agreement the county has with Clipper LLC, a wind generator company and the recent extension of the lease agreement to 2010.

Gov. O’Malley is pushing for alternative energy sources to combat global warming and reduce carbon emissions, both admirable goals. Complicating this is the Public Service Commission. It is my understanding that the PSC has members who are invested in big business directly affecting that which they are charged to regulate, particularly the wind industry.

The greatest demand for electricity is at the other end of the state. The greatest source for alternative energy in the form of wind, also is at the other end of the state. More affluent people are also at that end of the state. Garrett County, on the other hand, does not have nearly as many affluent people, but does possess mountain ridges where wind can be irregularly satisfactory for electrical wind generation. As demonstrated at public hearings, the great majority of Garrett County residents rejects wind generation towers on public lands, and as residents learn more they are objecting to private land sites as well.

The arguments presented against wind generation in Garrett County are many and convincing. Why aren’t these arguments persuasive with the county commissioners and state government? Could it be that Gov. O’Malley and the PSC would find it politically unacceptable to put wind towers on the waters of the Chesapeake Bay or off the Maryland coast? Could it be that the political consequences would be too great or that local government in those areas has prohibitive zoning?

Does Garrett County have similar political clout? Obviously, it does not. Does Garrett County have zoning ordinances prohibiting this type of construction? No again! In fact, Garrett County Commissioners seem to be using absence of county-wide zoning as a mechanism to tell Garrett County wind energy opponents that there’s nothing they can do, rather than to seek creative solutions to comply with the will of the majority of constituents.

It seems to me that the issue boils down power and money. Further, I think the wind generation industry, supported by the governor and PSC, is attempting to subvert the democratic process by avoiding public hearings for such construction.

At the local level, we find that Garrett County has a lease agreement with a windmill company (Clipper) and not shared this with the public. As a side note, I was raised by my parents believing that withholding important information is no less of a fault than lying about it!

So I ask, how does the individual citizen fight these powerful forces and more importantly, why must we be in this fight? Shouldn’t local government officials represent their constituency AND protect our natural resources and the safety and health of the people?

Local government is local because it best knows and understands the concerns of citizens. Local elected officials are in the best position to represent the preponderance of views of their constituency. I implore our local officials to protect our resources, be proactive in fighting those forces threatening those resources and be forthcoming in their views and positions that relate to these issues.

Kenny Braitman
eastern Garrett County resident

Cumberland Times-News

18 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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