September 8, 2011

Rumford board to wait for state to decide wind standards

By Terry Karkos, Staff Writer, Sun Journal, 8 September 2011

RUMFORD – Selectmen at Wednesday night’s Wind Ordinance workshop took a wait-and-see approach to setting sound and safety standards.

They decided to await a decision by the Maine Board of Environmental Protection that may come from the Augusta board’s meeting on Thursday, Sept. 15.

That came after Selectman Jeff Sterling read a letter from Rumford businessman Roger Arsenault, who said the state BEP is considering setting stricter standards.

Arsenault asked them to table Wednesday night’s discussion to await the state’s determination.

“We couldn’t wait forever on this, but it might be of value to see where the state is going on this, if there’s some sort of time frame figured into it,” Sterling said.

“But one of the things we talked about last time was waiting on the state to come up with standards.”

“There was a lot of legislation that was pending from January through June and none of it, at this point, has made it through,” he said. “And I think all but one never made it out of the committee.”

Still, Sterling suggested waiting for direction from the state.

Town Manager Carlo Puiia said that once a permit is drawn, that’s the standard to which it would adhere.

“So if the state changes the standard after we adopt an ordinance and the permit was already drawn” whatever the state did wouldn’t matter, he said.

When asked by the board, Albert Aniel of Mexico said the state BEP will take up the matter at its meeting Thursday, Sept. 15. But he couldn’t say whether they’d make a determination.

Selectman Brad Adley asked Aniel and a handful of regular workshop attendees what the BEP is reviewing. Arsenault replied, “Everything.”

“Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt to see what they come up with, but we can’t wait forever,” Adley said. “There’s a lot more wiser minds there.”

The board then moved into the next agenda item, that of determining a safety setback should a wind turbine fall over or its blades throw chunks of ice.

Board Chairman Greg Buccina suggested going with 150 percent of the turbine height when the blade is at its highest above the grade.

Sterling put that into perspective basing that on a 400-foot-tall turbine, saying the setback would be 600 feet, providing a 200-foot buffer.

Aniel, who was concerned for snowmobile safety, said that wasn’t nearly enough. He said wind turbine blades can throw ice from 1,200 feet to 1,500 feet.

Buccina reconsidered, saying he’d like the setback farther back.

“I think it would eliminate a lot of repercussions like from sound,” he said.

Former Selectman Jim Thibodeau asked for a minimum of 2,500 feet.

He said he wasn’t so much concerned about safety as he was about wind turbines rendering his land useless.

“The sound setback may render the safety setback moot,” Sterling said.

“Is 2,000 a good number?” Adley asked.

“I’d like to see it higher, but the abutting landowner has the right to waive that,” Selectman Jeremy Volkernick said.

“Twenty-five hundred got voted down in November, 675 got voted down in June. In simple terms, that’s where we’re at,” Adley said.

He referred to the first ordinance, which was largely considered too restrictive and was defeated in November, and the second ordinance that was largely considered too permissive.

Sterling suggested waiting for guidance from the BEP, Aniel agreed and so, too, did the board.

Selectmen then asked if Aniel, Arsenault or Peter Buotte Jr. would tell them what the BEP decides next week, rather than seek the information themselves.

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