LINCOLN, Maine – Police arrested a half-dozen protesters Monday morning for blocking traffic to the $130 million Rollins Mountain wind project as part of what organizers called an attempt to halt the project’s potentially disastrous environmental impact.
Wearing bright orange ponchos that bore anti-windmill symbols, the first five protesters arrested at the 8 a.m. rally were slowly taken away by police after they had linked arms on a new access road onto Rollins and refused to allow construction vehicles to pass. The road was more than 100 yards inside the property owned by a subsidiary of Massachusetts-based First Wind.
Protester Monique Aniel of Roxbury was among 35 protesters from across Maine. She said she supported the Friends of Lincoln Lakes group’s opposition of the project, which calls for the installation of roads
and of 40 turbines, each capable of generating 1½ megawatts, on ridgelines in Burlington, Lincoln, Lee and Winn.
The Friends members “have exhausted every possible legal appeal that they could make in opposition to this project,” she said. “We hope that this protest can draw attention to the fact that their voices are not being heard.”
Though its legal battles continue, the group’s various appeals of the project to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, Board of Environmental Protection, Maine Supreme Judicial Court, Lincoln
Planning Board, Lincoln Planning Appeals Board and other municipal planning agents have failed.
As of 11 a.m., the protesters were apparently still being booked by Lincoln police. Their names and the charges against them were not available.
First Wind spokesman John Lamontagne called Monday’s protest unfortunate. “First Wind is pleased to move ahead with the Rollins Wind project and put people to work in northern Maine during a tough economy. It’s unfortunate a small group of renewable energy opponents have chosen to protest that, but we respect their rights to do so,” Lamontagne said in a statement.
“This project will put more than 200 people to work during construction, and generate enough clean, renewable power for more than 24,000 homes in Maine. We’re proud of that.”
The protesters said First Wind, which withdrew its initial public offering of stock two weeks ago, carries huge debt and is building a project that will decimate land values, threaten the health of residents with its turbine sounds and vibration, and be a blight on the pastoral beauty of the ridges. They said it would not be built in Maine if not for the tax breaks First Wind gets from the state and federal governments.
Project proponents have maintained that wind power is a safe, environmentally sound way to generate electricity and help wean the U.S. from its addiction to foreign oil. They said windmills benefit or have no impact on land values, provide construction workers who usually work only temporary jobs with another avenue of employment,
create a much smaller pool of full-time jobs, boost local economies and increase the industrial potential of their host communities.
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