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BEP rejects appeal of 50-turbine Oakfield wind farm

The Maine Board of Environmental Protection voted Wednesday to uphold state regulators’ decision to grant a permit for a 50-turbine wind farm in Oakfield that would be the largest single wind energy project built in Maine to date.

By unanimous vote, the BEP rejected opponents’ requests to essentially rescind the permit issued in January by the Department of Environmental Protection and, instead, hold public hearings on several issues.

The appellants – the group Protect Our Lakes and Island Falls resident Donna Davidge – had argued that the department failed to consider all evidence on potential impacts on wildlife, including bald eagles, and on the area’s scenic character. They also questioned the financial capacity of the developer, First Wind, to complete the project.

The board’s backing of the department means opponents will have to take their concerns to the courts. Attorney Lynne Williams, who represented the appellants, said she will discuss the issue with her clients.

Located in the Aroostook County town of Oakfield, the project would feature 50 turbines – each standing more than 400 feet tall from base to blade tip – with each capable of generating up to 3 megawatts of power. The project appears to enjoy strong support from the local residents who voted overwhelmingly to approve a tax agreement and community benefit agreement with Massachusetts-based First Wind.