Maine’s Board of Environmental Protection rejects First Wind appeal, affirming DEP denial of Bowers Mountain Wind Project
Maine’s Board of Environmental Protection (BEP) today rejected two appeals and affirmed a 2013 decision by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to deny a permit for the Bowers Mountain Wind project proposed for Carroll Plt. and Kossuth Twp. Appellants were Boston-based developer First Wind and landowner Douglas E. Humphrey.
“We are very pleased with this decision, but not surprised,” said Gary Campbell, president of local conservation group, the Partnership for the Preservation of the Downeast Lakes Watershed (PPDLW). “This project would have seriously damaged the scenic value of nine lakes that the State of Maine has designated as significant scenic resources, lakes that the legislature specifically shielded from wind projects.”
Campbell continued, “This constellation of more than 20 glacial lakes is very valuable to Maine. Sportsmen have been coming here for nearly 200 years and this was a crossroad of major water routes used by the native Abenaki people for many centuries before that. The lakes are largely undeveloped, the water is clean and they’re peppered with islands that have primitive campsites. You can spend weeks exploring by canoe, kayak or motorboat and camp on a different island every night.”
This was First Wind’s third attempt to put a project on the mountains overlooking the Downeast Lakes. The Land Use Regulation Commission (LURC) rejected the Bowers project in 2012, DEP rejected a modified Bowers project in 2013, and now BEP has reached the same conclusion in 2014.
In a last minute attempt to derail the BEP denial, First Wind attorney Juliet Browne filed a request that the Board either grant the appeal or remand the case back to DEP so First Wind could have the opportunity to modify the project. This request was unanimously voted down by the Board.
“To put forward a request to amend the project 72 hours before the final vote is ridiculous. First Wind could have amended the project any time over the past ten months but decided to file an appeal instead. We’re glad that the BEP saw through the tactic and rejected First Wind’s appeal.”
The Bowers project called for sixteen 459’ tall wind turbines to be erected on Bowers Mountain and neighboring hills in Carroll Plantation and Kossuth Township in Penobscot and Washington Counties. The project would have had a total nameplate capacity of 48MW with an actual output of approximately 14MW.
Although the turbines were to be sited in Maine’s Expedited Permitting Area (EPA), where scenic impact standards are reduced for grid-scale wind energy projects, it was within 1200’ of a large area that had been omitted from the EPA in order to protect the scenic value of the Downeast Lakes Region.
The denial of the Bowers project presents First Wind with a conundrum. On August 2, 2013, nine days after DEP announced that it would reject the Bowers project, First Wind signed a 15-year contract with National Grid, the utility that supplies electricity to customers in Rhode Island. Under terms of the contract, First Wind must build the Bowers Project and send its electricity to businesses and residents in Rhode Island. The company was so confident that the Bowers project would be approved on appeal that it put up approximately $1.5 million, money it will forfeit if it can’t deliver on the contract. First Wind’s only option now is to appeal the BEP’s decision to Maine’s Supreme Court.
“We’ve been fighting to protect this remarkable network of scenic lakes for four years now,” Campbell said. “First Wind claims to be doing what’s best for Maine but these endless hearings cost the taxpayers a lot of money. Three strikes and you’re supposed to be out. I hope this time the developer gets the message leaves this treasured area alone.”
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