Amid protests, LURC approves wind power expansion project on Sisk Mountain in northern Franklin County
BANGOR – In an expected decision, the Land Use Regulation Commission formally approved an 11-turbine expansion to the Kibby Wind Power Project in northern Franklin County at a brief meeting Wednesday.
The 5 to 1 vote mirrored the results of a straw poll taken at a Dec. 1 meeting, which concluded with the LURC staff being instructed to draft a document approving the expansion. Protesters, including members of intervening organizations who thought the project was poorly-located, gathered beforehand outside with signs.
The 11-turbines, located along the Sisk Mountain ridge line to the west of the 44-turbine Kibby project, represented a second attempt at an expansion from TransCanada. An earlier proposal would have added 15 turbines along the ridge line, but that was voted down by the LURC panel in July. The company downsized their proposal, dropping four turbines and associated access roads located on the more-controversial southern portion of the ridge. These turbines had been singled out for their high visibility from the nearby Chain of Ponds, as well as effectively bisecting the sub-alpine habitat of the Bicknell’s Thrush, a threatened species of bird.
In the end the concessions won over five of the six LURC members. Commissioner Rebecca Kurtz was the dissenting vote, noting she couldn’t support the 11-turbine expansion due to the sensitivity of the region’s ecology.
Also in opposition to the expansion were several intervening organizations, including Maine Audubon Society, Appalachian Mountain Club, Natural Resources Council of Maine, Friends of the Boundary Mountains, and the Citizen’s Task Force on Wind Power, which all fought against the project at public hearings held by LURC.
“In the course of studying industrial wind, we have also come to understand how wind’s gross inefficiency will significantly increase electricity and transmission costs to Maine rate payers,” said Monique Aniel, co-chair of CTFWP. ”The negative effects on our economy far outweigh any benefits from a few temporary construction jobs or other so-called tangible benefits. We also believe that the presence of thousands of these massive, 400-foot tall turbines atop Maine’s mountains will jeopardize the state’s tourism revenues by spoiling that which makes us special, our quality of place.”
According to Catherine Carroll, LURC’s executive director, an intervening organization could appeal the decision to the state supreme court within 30 days. A judicial review would focus on whether LURC followed the correct process, not whether a wind power expansion makes sense on Sisk Mountain.
“The commission is very careful to follow the process,” Carroll said following the hearing today, “and the evidence in front of them. The focus is ‘was there due process?’”
The completion date for the expansion is 2012.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding