The Maryland Public Service Commission will make the official decision on the Criterion Power Partners, LLC wind project on Backbone Mountain next week, but already PSC staff is recommending the company’s request.
“Staff recommends that the Commission grant Criterion’s application,” the recommendation reads. “… and advise Criterion that an exemption from the (Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity) requirement does not limit the authority of any state or local authority …”
The document, available through the PSC Web site, states that Criterion, a subsidiary of Clipper Windpower Inc. of Carpinteria, Calif., will have to go through the necessary permitting processes, and that it should also include the approval of a stormwater/sediment erosion permit by Garrett County agencies, as the county had requested be done prior to the acceptance of the application.
The final decision as to whether Criterion will be exempt from the certificate, which provides the authority for the construction or modification of a new generating station, will be made by the PSC at 10 a.m. Wednesday at its Baltimore office.
“It looks like the county’s request for the stormwater/sediment erosion of the two municipalities will be reviewed,” Monty Pagenhardt, county administrator, said in reference to the impact of the project on Oakland and Mountain Lake Park.
“The county feels that through normal and standard permitting process, this will take place. The Department of Planning and Land Development’s Office of Permits and Inspection has already been contacted by Criterion Power Partners, who have always been in compliance with what is required of the permitting process.”
Denny Glotfelty, county commission chairman, said he is pleased that the PSC staff had included the stormwater/sediment erosion request as part of its opinion. Ultimately, he said he is waiting for the final decision from the PSC, but so far the company has gone through all necessary permitting action.
“I have to support the property use for land owners,” Glotfelty said. “That’s what Garrett County, at this point, wants. Their property rights are still a No. 1 priority for me.”
Part of the property for the construction of the wind turbines is county owned, as it had been part of the Garrett County Sanitary District prior to when the sanitary district became a county entity, but all previous comments from county representatives say that the county was not aware of the ownership of the land until 2005.
The remainder of the construction along the ridge of Backbone Mountain will be on private land. This differs from the recent controversy over wind turbines on state-owned public land, which Gov. Martin O’Malley announced Saturday would be rejected by his administration.
“Obviously, I’m delighted about the state forest announcement,” Delegate Wendell Beitzel said, “but on private property, it’s a different issue. I think we need to look at some of the criteria for setbacks and controls, so they don’t just put the turbines on the property line and inconvenience people.”
By Sarah Moses
18 April 2008
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