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Friends of Maine’s Mountains appeals Saddleback wind permit

Friends of Maine’s Mountains (FMM) has filed an appeal with the Bureau of Environmental Protection (BEP) opposing the permit issued by Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to Saddleback Ridge Wind, LLC. They are concerned for the protection of Maine citizens and for nearby Mount Blue State Park.

In October of 2010, Patriot Renewables of Boston applied to the DEP to construct the Saddleback Ridge Wind project; a grid-scale industrial wind facility in Carthage, Dixfield and Canton. The proposed project is in close proximity to Mt. Blue State Park and Webb Lake. The permit issued by the DEP conflicts with regulations which are designed to protect resources of state or national significance. Mt. Blue is the second largest state park in Maine. Tens of thousands of people visit there every year to enjoy Webb Lake and the surrounding mountains. The area is a treasured location for hikers and outdoor recreationalists.

Heidi Nichols from Massachusetts states that “the proposed Saddleback Ridge Wind Project will impact the entire Weld area. The twelve wind turbines will be a major interruption to an outstandingly beautiful 360 degree viewshed that has collaboratively been protected over the past 100 years by the Trust for Public Land, Land for Maine Futures, Mt. Blue State Park, Tumbledown Conservation Alliance, and the Webb Lake Association. Our ‘Maine experience’ will be marred by an industrial wind project in close proximity to the natural resources which call us here, year after year. If the Saddleback Wind project is built, my family and our friends will probably decide to go elsewhere to vacation.”

FMM attorney Rufus Brown is optimistic about the appeal. “There were many issues upon which we based our appeal – not least of which was the noise impacts that the project would impose on many residents within the ‘receptor’ zone. Add to that, the negative visual impacts from several major natural resources such as Mt. Blue State Park, Webb Lake, Tumbledown and Bald Mountains and the evidence supporting a ‘deny’ decision is substantial.” He explained that “in this appeal we raise, for the first time, some important constitutional issues, including the denial of due process that property owners are entitled to but were denied when the DEP made a licensing decision without a hearing and without impartiality. There are other constitutional infirmities that need to be addressed because of the flawed process that led to the Wind Energy Act, including improperly delegated power to the DEP to make visual impact assessments without objective standards to prevent arbitrary action, and an improper limitation on the protection of lakes to those listed in a twenty-two year old study that was underfunded and incomplete when it was published.”

Brown also commented on the deviation from State policy found in the Saddleback Ridge permit. In May 2011, Department of Conservation Commissioner William Beardsley stated that his Department “would not be the recipient of any tangible benefits from wind power projects”. And yet, the Saddleback Ridge Wind permit refers to a $60,000 payment from the applicant to Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands (BPL), and an email from the Assistant Deputy Director stating “DOC would be happy to accept any contributions from the developer for land protection efforts in this area.” It is evident that there are discrepancies between State policies and the actions of State agencies.

Chris O’Neil, President of FMM, is also optimistic about winning this appeal. “It’s very apparent that there were mistakes made along the way, prior to DEP’s issuance of this permit. Mainers were disenfranchised. Due process went unheeded when a Public Hearing was denied. Areas of ‘state significance’ were discounted. Locals’ health concerns were ignored. We look forward to presenting our case before the BEP regarding this Saddleback project.”

Chris O’Neil, President 590-3842

Rand Stowell, Treasurer 585-2005

Friends of Maine’s Mountains, P.O. Box 60, Weld, Maine 04285 (207)585-2005