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Opponents appeal approval of wind farm in Bingham  

Credit:  Morning Sentinel | October 11, 2014 | www.pressherald.com ~~

Opponents of a proposed wind farm in Bingham are appealing a decision approving the project, although they concede that the effort has little chance of success. Friends of Maine’s Mountains, an environmental advocacy group, filed one of two appeals this week with the state Board of Environmental Protection. The other was filed by an individual, Alice McCabe Barnett, who has filed petitions opposing the project in the past.

A Boston-based subsidiary of First Wind Holdings, which has promoted wind projects in five other states, was granted a land use permit for the Bingham project in September. The $398 million project would result in 62 wind turbines being erected.

Christopher O’Neil, whose Portland government relations firm represents Friends of Maine’s Mountains, concedes that the prospects of winning the appeal before the BEP are slim. O’Neil said the Legislature rewrote state laws governing wind power projects with the goal of making it easier to build wind power projects as an alternative to using fossil fuels.

While Friends of the Maine’s Mountains maintains that environmental damage is inevitable in the erection of free-standing wind towers that would mar scenic views and possibly cause noise pollution and dangerous emissions, other environmental groups are backing the wind project as a way to use more ecologically friendly wind power.

“It’s hard to lay a glove on them. It was intended to make it easier and faster,” O’Neil said. “There was concern that these things were unlike any other land use that Maine had seen and special provisions needed to be made if we wanted to encourage and welcome that land use.

”The appeals were filed in response to a Department of Environmental Protection decision, released last month, in which it granted a license to the company that proposed the Bingham project.

The wind power project approval came with several conditions, including a requirement that First Wind buy a 90-acre parcel for the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to be used as a deer wintering area. The company also must work to prevent soil erosion and dangerous emissions during construction and operation of the project, and it must provide proof that it can raise the nearly $400 million needed for the project.

Finances are also at the core of the Friends of Maine’s Mountains appeal. O’Neil said he believes that the group’s strongest argument is about the adequacy of the fund set up for the ultimate decommissioning of the 62 turbines that would be built. A decommissioning fund would pay for restoring the scenic vistas if the wind project ultimately is abandoned. O’Neil claims First Wind has underestimated the cost of removing the turbines, which would soar up to 492 feet in height, while restoring the mountain vistas affected by the project. He also claims that First Wind overestimated the potential value of dismantled turbines and towers, which would be sold off when no longer in use.

Friends of the Maine’s Mountains maintains that the towers eventually will have to become down because their long-term economic viability is limited.

“I think we’ve all learned a lot since 2007 and 2008, when this got rolling; and one of the things we’ve learned is that wind energy is overpromised and now underdelivers,” O’Neil said.

First Wind would build 29 towers in Mayfield Township, 22 in Kingsbury Plantation and 11 in Bingham.

While Friends of the Maine’s Mountains maintains that environmental damage is inevitable in the erection of free-standing wind towers that would mar scenic views and possibly cause noise pollution and dangerous emissions, other environmental groups are backing the wind project as a way to use more ecologically friendly wind power.

Source:  Morning Sentinel | October 11, 2014 | www.pressherald.com

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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