Today the Maine Supreme Judicial Court slammed on the brakes on a Massachusetts wind developer who is seeking to build an industrial wind complex in the shadow of Mt. Blue State Park and the Tumbledown Preserve.
In an opinion released this morning, the Law Court validated Friends of Maine’s Mountains’ (FMM) argument that the project will have adverse noise impacts on its neighbors, and should be held to the safest applicable noise standards.
That means Patriot Renewables, the developer of the Saddleback Mountain wind complex in Carthage overlooking spectacular Webb Lake, must return to the Board of Environmental Protection for further scrutiny. At issue is whether the wind turbines can be expected to operate at a safe nighttime noise level.
Patriot Renewables had won a permit from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and FMM appealed the decision. The Board of Environmental Protection (BEP) subsequently upheld the DEP permit decision, so FMM brought their appeal to the Law Court in November, 2012.
“We are pleased that the Court has sided with the people on this matter,” said FMM President Rand Stowell. “The Court has said that the DEP must protect the public health and the Legislature should provide guidance on the visual impact of industrial wind power projects.”
Stowell noted that permitting authorities, whether the former Land Use Regulation Commission or the DEP, have rarely been able to reject a wind permit application. “The law is written so that these regulatory agencies, including the Public Utilities Commission, as we have seen in the Emera and Statoil cases, have difficulty saying no to any applicant,” Stowell said. “They read the law and conclude ‘the Legislature wants wind power, lots of it, and at any cost’.”
After the opinion Stowell sounded optimistic. “I do not think Patriot Renewables will have an easy time complying with the nighttime noise limit. That should rightfully prevent them from building this massive industrial complex in such a beautiful setting.”
Looking forward, Stowell said that FMM is encouraged that the public is beginning to grasp the high impact and low benefit of wind power. “We are encouraged to see that the Court will not be a rubber stamp for DEP decisions on wind power. This is a decision that FMM finds helpful because the Court addresses the health and environmental impacts of wind power projects, and the Court also suggests what needs to be done at the DEP and the Legislature, namely that reasonable siting regulations be restored.”
FMM Government Affairs Director Chris O’Neil said the Court’s opinion is important in another fashion. “The legal and regulatory deck is stacked against us when it comes to opposing Maine wind power on a project by project basis. But every day we can prevent a project from breaking ground is a day that wind power becomes less attractive, less viable, and less tolerated in the public square.”
O’Neil added that FMM is focused on two objectives in 2013: changing Maine law to remove the current favor granted to wind power, and preventing projects from commencing construction by December 31, when they will no longer qualify for federal subsidy in the Production Tax Credit (PTC). “After the PTC bonanza dries up many of these wind projects will go away too. For the good of Maine we need to hold them at bay until the end of the year.”
Visit the FMM Website
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding