A nonprofit group that opposes wind-power development in the Moosehead Lake region says it will fight any plan to erect turbines on Misery Ridge amid fears that project developer SunEdison might file for bankruptcy.
The Moosehead Region Futures Committee also is fighting to allow to small townships and unorganized territories near the lake to withdraw from a development zone that fast-tracks wind project permitting, according to a news release from the group Thursday.
“We felt it was important to get it out there and let everyone know that there could be some serious problems if SunEdison goes bankrupt,” Richard McDonald, a member of the steering committee for the Moosehead Region Futures Committee, said Thursday.
In August, SunEdison installed meteorological towers on land then owned by Plum Creek, a forest management company, in the Misery Ridge area to test wind conditions for a potential project. No formal application has been submitted. Weyerhaeuser Co. bought Plum Creek and its land and other assets in November.
“The Somerset Wind development is a threat to the region’s tourism-based economy and the livelihoods of thousands of local residents,” said John Willard, president of the Moosehead committee, in the news release. He said the group worries about what will happen to the meteorological towers if SunEdison files for bankruptcy.
“What’s going to happen if they are abandoned? Who would be responsible for the expense of removing them? The developers may go bankrupt, and the Moosehead region will be stuck with this mess,” Willard said.
SunEdison spokesman John Lamontagne said he couldn’t comment on whether the company is filing for bankruptcy or what might happen to its assets in Maine if that happens. Last month, the Los Angeles Times reported that one of SunEdison’s affiliates said the company is at risk of filing for bankruptcy protection. The company is also reportedly being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission concerning whether it might have overstated to investors how much cash it had on hand in November, according to the Times.
Mark A. Doty, Weyerhaeuser’s northeast public affairs manager, said in an email Thursday that he could not comment on the proposed Somerset wind project.
More then 20 townships and unorganized territories in the area have requested that the state exempt them from its expedited wind permitting zone, which under Maine’s Wind Energy Act allows for the fast-track development of commercial wind farms in parts of the state’s unorganized and rural areas.
Communities have until June 30 to request exemptions, and as of Thursday more than a dozen communities were close to approval. They include The Forks, West Forks and Moxie Gore.
The Moosehead Region Futures Committee is fighting to have an exemption approved for Misery Gore, where part of the Somerset wind project would be.
Withdrawing from the zone isn’t a guarantee that a wind project won’t or can’t be built, but it makes it more difficult to get them approved, said McDonald, also president and director of communications for the anti-wind group Saving Maine.
“We’re trying to protect our region because that’s all we have,” he said. “We have a tourism economy. The mills are closing, and we continually hear bad news about the forest products industry. What do we have left aside from tourism? (Wind development) is just not in concert with that strategy.”