I wrote this on-line comment a few days ago in response to an article in the Sun Journal. The Friends of Maine’s Mountains was challenging ownership of a parcel of mountaintop previously thought to belong to the town of Carthage, but to which they have just received title. This 320- acre lot on Saddleback Mountain is slated to be the home of industrial wind turbines if the town fights for this land—and wins. Selectman Brown commented that the town would “reap royalties” and they just want to do what is in “the best interest of the town.”
Angus King and Rob Gardiner, who are proposing an industrial wind project in my neighborhood, met with Highlanders yesterday to present a new “tangible benefits” package to the plantation. After listening and watching, I was reminded of this comment made about the Carthage article…
What is, really, in the “best interest of a town?” Does it always come down to a quick buck? Is that what determines what is best for a town… or for an organization, or for a family or individual? If “tangible benefits” and short-term lease payments and a temporary reduction in taxes were all removed from the equation, what, then, would be in the “best interests of the town”?
Would it be best for the town to have hundreds of thousands of yards of bedrock and earth blasted and relocated on the beautiful ridges above their homes? Would the high, low and ultra-low frequency noise produced by turbines be unacceptable to the townsfolk and their neighbors then? Remember, acoustical engineers are beginning to tell us that people living within two miles of turbines can suffer adverse health effects. And less cautious experts are advocating for setbacks of up to five miles in mountainous regions and up to 20 miles when turbines rise above open water. If money wasn’t involved, would we be more likely to defend our friends and neighbors from the negative health effects of turbines? Would we care more about them, then?
If the monetary benefits were removed, would we be concerned about the miles of new roads which will fragment wildlife habitat and disrupt animals’ hunting and foraging trails? Would we be outraged at the bird and bat deaths which will occur, instead of shrugging the fact off with inane comments about how house cats and automobiles are just as apt to kill them?
And what about economics? If the town was not going to receive those tangible benefits, temporary lease payments and short term tax reductions, would we be more likely to require that wind turbines be self-supporting and produce affordable electricity before developers could erect their massive machines? Would we question the economics of a generation system which, at BEST, produces 35 percent of its rated capacity, but more often produces between 10 to 25 percent? Would we welcome a power plant whose product is up to four times more expensive than an already-established renewable hydro source in Canada? Would we encourage development of an industry which we knew had a life-span of only 20 years? And which would be expensive and time-consuming to remove when its useful life was over? Would we allow them to be built, knowing that the money for decommissioning them had not been set aside at the outset, and understanding that it could very well fall to the taxpayers to foot those future bills?
Would it be best for the town’s economy to lose open land for hunting, hiking, bird-watching, and the like to hillsides and ridgelines which will be posted against trespassing? Would we be more likely to protect the integrity of the wilderness experience for which tourists from around the world travel to Maine, if the almighty dollar wasn’t being waved in front of our faces?
If the state of Maine had not sanctioned this form of bribery, and if our legislators had not approved it, we would not be facing these issues. There is no way in the world the people of Maine would allow such an ill-advised, misguided, destructive and economically unfeasible plan to move forward on our iconic summits. If money was taken out of the equation, Mainers would be shouting “NO!” from these mountaintops. If the money was gone, then we would really, really be working in “the best interest of the town.”
All is not lost. I am encouraged. As more and more Mainers become informed on the true facts about these projects, the wind is shifting. People are standing up. People are speaking up. People are exercising their rights and calling for a stop to this foolish plan. Money isn’t the be-all, end-all that the developers believe it to be. Some people care about the whole picture, and not just the short-term monetary gains.
I hope the town of Carthage will recognize that there is much more value in its resources —both human and “natural”— than there is value in being the temporary recipient of hand-outs from a forprofit company which is reaping its rewards from American workers’ hard-earned tax money.
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