BANGOR, Maine – A Canadian energy firm is scaling back its expansion plans for Western Maine’s Kibby Mountain wind farm after state regulators made clear that they could not support placing an additional 15 turbines in the area.
TransCanada officials told the Land Use Regulation Commission on Wednesday that they plan to file a revised application removing the four southernmost turbines in the 15-turbine project. The project is proposed for Kibby and Chain of Ponds townships, approximately two miles from the second phase of the Kibby wind farm now under construction.
TransCanada’s attorney outlined the proposed changes on the same day that LURC was poised to deny the company’s permit request at its Bangor meeting. Despite opposition from the project’s critics, commissioners voted unanimously to table the issue in order to allow TransCanada to revise its application.
“This proposal is not lightly made,” said Juliet Browne, who represented TransCanada before the commission.
During a meeting last month, commissioners largely agreed with concerns raised by opponents that the proposed wind farm expansion would harm views from nearby lakes and trails.
In its written recommendation to the commission, LURC staff noted that while both the original Kibby project and the proposed expansion would “significantly compromise views,” the southern seven turbines within the proposed expansion would have “unreasonable adverse impact to the scenic character of the Chain of Ponds and of the Arnold Trail.”
Commissioners also voiced serious concerns that the southern half of the project would have unacceptable effects on the subalpine fir forests and the Bicknell’s thrush, a bird dependent on subalpine fir forests that the state lists as a “species of special concern.”
Several commissioners had indicated last month that they likely could support a project containing just the eight northern turbines because they had fewer effects on scenic views or subalpine forests. Browne said Wednesday that the eight-turbine project was not economically viable, however.
“We think this is very responsive to the commissioners’ concerns about reducing the subalpine impacts, reducing the impacts on Bicknell’s thrush and reducing the visual impacts on Chain of Ponds,” Browne said.
Critics of the 15-turbine project argued unsuccessfully against allowing TransCanada to revise its application so late in the process.
The most forceful statements came from Bob Weingarten, president of the organization Friends of the Boundary Mountains, who criticized TransCanada for seeking to revise and delay the project now after working hard to keep the project on the fast-track for so long.
Weingarten said the company’s inflexibility caused hardship to his small group of volunteers as they tried to share their views with the commission.
“TransCanada had months and months to change their proposal while the record was still open,” Weingarten said. “TransCanada had months and months to listen to the other side.”
The first 22 turbines of TransCanada’s Kibby wind farm are already operating, and the company is building another 22 turbines at the site.
Last month, three protesters with the group Maine EarthFirst! were arrested while blocking the road leading up to the company’s construction site. Maine EarthFirst! and other critics of industrial wind power contend that projects such as TransCanada’s destroy mountaintops and do little to offset the use of fossil fuels.
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