Harley Lee stood before lawmakers on the Utilities and Energy Committee at the State House on Monday, once again making the case for a Redington Township wind farm permit. Lee is the developer of a proposed wind power project for mountains in unorganized Redington Township near Sugarloaf Mountain in Franklin County.
“We’ve put over a decade in this and over $5 million so it’s been a huge effort to try to save the planet here in Maine,” said Lee, president of Endless Energy Corp. of Yarmouth.
The debate over developing wind power in Maine was renewed during a public hearing before the legislative committee. The hearing focused on legislation to streamline and expedite the regulation process for wind power developers. The bill is based on the recommendations of Gov. John Baldacci’s wind power task force, which released its official report in mid-February.
Lee’s pitch for a wind farm in Redington has twice been denied a permit by the Land Use Regulation Commission, most recently at a vote taken Jan. 14 of this year.
“We have two Department of Environmental Protection permits, we have a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit, we have a town of Carrabassett Valley approval . . . and this more recent Maine Biz survey shows similar public approval,” Lee said, referring to an unscientific survey of Maine Biz ‘The Daily’ readers taken Jan. 21. The survey said more than 80 percent of people who chose to respond thought the need to pursue alternative energy sources outweighed the concerns cited by LURC in its decision to deny Lee’s wind farm proposal.
The Redington permitting process “illuminates the flaws in the system,” Lee said.
The bill before the committee includes provisions made by the wind power task force to streamline the wind power permitting process and lists pre-approved “expedited permitting areas.”
But Redington is not on the list.
Lee testified in support of the bill, but asked the committee to include Redington Township. Also testifying in favor of the bill were representatives from the Natural Resources Council of Maine, the American Lung Association, the Independent Energy Producers of Maine, the Maine Audubon Society, Central Maine Power and members of the governor’s wind power task force.
Several people stood in opposition of the bill, including Dain Trafton of Phillips.
Trafton said the bill’s emphasis on streamlining the permitting process would weaken environmental protections already in place.
“There have been five wind plant proposals in Maine,” Trafton said. “Of these, four have been approved . . . where is the critical problem that is holding wind power back in Maine?”
He also criticized the wind power development goals set by the task force, recommending Maine be capable of producing at least 2,000 megawatts of wind energy by 2015 and at least 3,000 megawatts by 2020.
“If 3,000 megawatts of wind were installed on the Maine mountains . . . he turbines would stretch over about 300 miles of summits and ridge lines,” Trafton said. “Not to mention the associated roads and other construction as well as the massive increase in transmission facilities that would be required at great cost.”
The committee is scheduled to work on the language of the bill on Tuesday.
By Rebekah Metzler
1 April 2008
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