AUGUSTA – Thursday, Nov. 17, citizens of Highland Plantation, and Lexington and Concord townships held a press conference in the Hall of Flags in the State Capitol.
A majority of the residents in these three communities have signed petitions stating that they are opposed to gridscale wind turbine facilities within their borders; specifically, two developers who have set their sights on the mountains of these small, rural communities.
The purpose of the press conference, according to Alan Michka, a resident of Lexington Township, was two-fold.
Residents are publicly requesting that Highland Wind and Iberdrola Renewables abandon development plans and respect the will of the majority of the community members.
The group of citizens also delivered copies of their petitions to Governor LePage’s office, where Kenneth Fletcher of the Governor’s Office of Energy Independence and Security was on hand to receive them. They requested that the Governor use the power and resources of his office to remove Highland Plantation, and Lexington and Concord townships from Maine’s Expedited Permitting Area.
Also speaking at the press conference were David Miller, U.S. Navy (Ret.), from Lexington, Rose Staton of Highland Plantation, and former state representative Wright Pinkham, who read a statement from long-time Concord resident Robert Perkins.
Supporting the group’s efforts are members of their local state delegation: Senator Rod Whittemore and Representative Larry Dunphy. Members of the Somerset County Commissioners’ office also spoke in support of their constituents.
“A decisive majority of the residents in three Somerset County communities have signed petitions stating they are opposed to industrial wind turbine projects. As a Somerset County Commissioner, I respect and support their position,” said Gerald York, Commissioner for District 2.
In 2008, the Maine Wind Energy Act passed as an emergency measure and citizens in Unorganized Territories found that their communities had been rezoned to allow industrial development in the form of wind energy plants.
“For decades, the residents of these lands within the jurisdiction of the Maine Land Use Regulation Commission had a voice in their communities’ futures. Extraordinary projects such as grid-scale wind development were not permitted in our communities without a change in land use standards —a change that was first subject to public comment,” states Michka.
Highland Wind LLC, owned by former governor Angus King and former president of Maine Public Broadcasting, Rob Gardiner, has twice submitted applications to LURC to construct a wind energy facility on the ridges of Highland Plantation. The developers pulled their most recent application in May of 2011 after Agency Review comments filed by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife expressed grave concerns about the project’s impacts on local wildlife. The complete IF&W comments can be found on LURC’s website http://www.maine.gov/doc/lurc/projects.
At the time of withdrawal, King informed LURC staff that it was Highland Wind LLC’s intent to resubmit another application in the future.
Iberdrola Renewables of Spain, the world’s largest operator of wind energy facilities, has indicated it plans to submit an application to build the Fletcher Mountain Wind Project in Lexington and Concord townships.
“Ignacio Galan, chairman of Iberdrola Group, told the Portland Press Herald that ‘If Maine signals that it’s no longer friendly to wind power, the global energy company will expand elsewhere.’ The Concord and Lexington petitions make it clear that these communities are not friendly to Iberdrola’s plans. Hopefully, Iberdrola will make good on their threat to expand elsewhere. Certainly, they’re not welcome here,” Michka stated.
Wind energy development has become a controversial topic; not just in Maine but around the world. Michka insists however that the request made to Governor LePage was not about “wind” as much as it was about “fully restoring the voice of residents and property owners in the future of their communities. Removal from the EPA does not prevent wind energy development, but requires the developer to secure approval for a change of zoning, an action that allows the residents to weigh in on the proposed change.”