Monday, December 7, 2009

from the Bangor Daily...

Wind farm critics challenge state law

By Nick Sambides Jr.
BDN Staff

LINCOLN, Maine — A state law fast-tracking wind-to-energy projects is unconstitutional, and the state’s own peer reviewer admitted that state methods for reviewing project noise is flawed, an attorney opposing the $130 million Rollins Mountain wind farm argues in a brief submitted to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.

Representing the Friends of Lincoln Lakes residents group, attorney Lynne Williams, of Bar Harbor, claimed that the Board of Environmental Protection, which oversees the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, had no business approving the proposed 60-megawatt industrial wind site on Rollins Mountain.

In her 27-page brief, Williams cited notes from an internal conference call at DEP in March, which she acquired as she prepared the group’s appeal, in which the DEP’s own peer reviewer stated that he “has issues with [the] model being used.”

“Currently it’s based on industrial noise, not wind power noise,” the reviewer states, adding that “[w]e haven’t been able to determine whether this model is accurate for wind turbines,” Williams wrote in her appeal.

The reviewer also stated that “wind turbine noise needs more investigation,” Williams wrote.

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection issued First Wind of Massachusetts a permit for the Rollins Mountain project in April, Williams said, despite the reviewer never reconciling his expressed concerns with his ultimate approval of the project.

The Rollins Mountain project is a 40-turbine industrial wind site proposed for the Rollins Mountain ridgelines in Burlington, Lee, Lincoln and Winn.

Proponents have praised First Wind as a conscientious creator of wind power, saying the Lincoln Lakes project would create as much as 60 megawatts of pollution-free electricity in peak winds.

The friends group contends the turbines would lower land values and threaten human and animal health with light flicker and low-decibel sound; disrupt the pastoral nature of Rollins; and typically generate a fraction of their capacity.

Under the state’s fast-track law, Williams said, the friends group’s appeal must go to the Law Court, a requirement she called unconstitutional, as it denies appellants the opportunity to appeal to lesser courts first.

Williams filed her brief with the state’s top court on Nov. 30. No review dates have been set.

The group’s second court action protests the Lincoln Board of Appeals’ refusal to hear the group’s appeal of a permit the Lincoln Planning Board issued to the proposed wind farm. That appeal also is pending.

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