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Wind project manager: Nothing new in Spruce Mountain appeal

WOODSTOCK – An attorney representing Friends of Spruce Mountain filed an appeal last week with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection over a land-use permit granted to Patriot Renewables to develop a wind farm.

The DEP granted a land-use permit on Oct. 5 for the 10-turbine, 20-megawatt wind farm, which included an analysis of environmental impacts caused by both the construction and the noise from the turbines.

Andy Novey, project developer for Patriot Renewables LLC, said most of the complaints were familiar from previous project appeals. “There doesn’t seem to be a lot of new information in there,” Novey said.

At issue is the noise limit for wind turbines and potential health effects of that noise.

Novey said a 5 decibel safety buffer makes Patriot Renewables’ models more conservative and safer than the Vinalhaven and Mars Hill wind farms that are cited as causing stress and anxiety to residents. Those projects were not built by Patriot Renewables.

According to the DEP, the Mars Hill project was problematic because developers there were granted a variance from the noise limit. No variance was granted for the Spruce Mountain project.

Spruce Mountain’s attorney, Rufus Brown, attacks both Patriot Renewables’ methodology and the DEP for allowing turbine noise up to 45 decibels to reach nearby homes at night.

The appeal includes e-mails between Dora Mills, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control, and the DEP, obtained through a Freedom of Access request. In quotes excerpted by Brown, Mills expresses support for wind energy while expressing concerns about the effects of wind noise.

“She and the DEP worked together to present a public position dismissive of the health issues,” Brown’s appeal says, then quoting a May 2009 e-mail from Mills where she said she is “quite strongly in support of wind turbines.”

These e-mails were released in December 2009 when Brown appealed a similar DEP permit approving the proposed Record Hill project in Roxbury.

The appeal argues that turbines will bring down property values, costing the town of Woodstock more in tax revenue than the $20,000 a year the wind developers will pay to the town.

Denise Hall of Woodstock, vice president of Friends of Spruce Mountain, said she is happy with Brown’s appeal. She said the $20,000 a year is a small price to pay for the losses to property value and residents’ health.

Novey said Patriot Renewables hopes to break ground on the Spruce Mountain project in the spring.