When I began to research the topic of industrial wind on Maine’s mountaintops, it was with one purpose. Last fall, Angus King and Rob Gardiner came to Highland Plantation and told locals of their planned development for Highland’s five mountains. The largest proposal for the state at that time, I believed it warranted looking into, even though – with my uneducated mind – I supported the concept of producing electricity from something as benign as wind.
It did not take me long to realize that a grid-scale wind energy plant was not a good plan for these ridges, nor for any others in this state. The environmental consequences, the health risks, the questions surrounding decommissioning and the ratios of benefits vs. negative impacts convinced me that the development was a disaster in the making. I, along with other concerned Mainers, formed a citizens’ group opposing the Highland project.
We knew it was an uphill battle. We knew our opponents had power, influence and money, while we were a simple band of people who came together with nothing but a desire and conviction to do what we believed was right. We also knew that to oppose the plan in light of the promises made to Highlanders by Mr. King and Mr. Gardiner might very well cause hard feelings in the community. The plantation was hurting after suffering through years of incredibly high taxes. The “tangible benefits” offered to taxpayers would be hard to refuse.
I’ve never been one to cause a fuss. I’ve always been a peacemaker – a woman who avoided conflict when possible and helped others do the same. In the early days of our opposition, I tried desperately to smooth the waters whipped up by industrial wind. I laid out my motives for opposing the project and listed those reasons in a personal letter sent to Mr. King. I asked him to withdraw his permit application from the Land Use Regulation Commission. I asked him to do the right thing, instead of the thing destined to earn him a plethora of hard-earned taxpayer subsidies.
In the weeks and months since that time, I have listened to Mr. King speak in public about this project. I was a guest during one of those forums, so I was compelled by a sense of propriety to remain quiet while he spoke. And one of those times, all non-Highlanders were asked at the beginning of the meeting to remain silent. I respected that request.
In both recorded meetings, Mr. King misled his audience. In one meeting, he told those in attendance that as far as the Highlands group went, our opposition was “all about the view.” He has called Maine the “Saudi Arabia of wind” and yet the Department of Energy’s wind maps tell another story.
The choice is clear. If Highlanders put their faith in the owner of Independence Wind, they are choosing to trust a man who either knowingly tells untruths or doesn’t know enough about his subject to speak with any degree of expertise.
It’s easy to spread misinformation when no one challenges you on it. It’s easy to spread feel-good propaganda when your listeners are easily led. But those days are over.
The people of Maine are leaders, not lambs. The people of Maine are intelligent, hardworking, thrifty and proud. The facts about industrial wind are coming to light, and citizens are working diligently to see that their neighbors are armed with the truth.
Wind turbine developments on the mountains of Maine? The negative impacts – and there are many – far outweigh the negligible benefits. It doesn’t make sense from a scientific or an economic standpoint. So while I intend to remain respectful if possible, I won’t remain silent anymore. Mainers are arming themselves with facts. Mainers are regaining their authority to shape the destiny of this state. We won’t be lied to. We won’t be bullied.
We will try to be civil, but we won’t be silent anymore.
Karen Bessey Pease of Lexington Township is a writer and member of the Friends of the Highland Mountains.
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