In the past 24 hours, two important decisions were made in different parts of the state that will help determine where Maine gets its energy in the future. Maine’s Land Use Regulation Commission approved a 57 MW wind farm to be built in Washington County, and Wiscasset residents rejected a coal gasification plant slated for their town. “The Natural Resources Council of Maine strongly supported both of these decisions, and we believe both are important steps on the road to a clean energy future,” said NRCM Clean Energy Director Dylan Voorhees.
This afternoon’s wind power decision was made in Rockwood when the Land Use Regulation Commission (LURC) voted 6-0 to support a 57 MW wind farm located in northwest Washington County on Stetson Mountain. When constructed, the Stetson wind farm will be New England’s largest—generating about 35% more clean power annually than Mars Hill. Last night’s coal plant decision came when citizens in Wiscasset voted against an ordinance change that would have paved the way for a 700 MW coal gasification plant, which would have turned coal into electricity and diesel fuel.
“These are not unrelated victories for Maine’s environment and public health,” said Dylan Voorhees, Clean Energy Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine. “Every day, we see the people of Maine making small and big steps towards a clean energy future. These were two big ones.”
“We applaud LURC and the people of Wiscasset for helping Maine make energy choices that fit with Maine’s special character,” said Voorhees.
The Stetson wind farm will generate a significant amount of energy with no air emissions, no mercury, and no global warming gasses. (Stetson will produce more clean energy annually than all but five of Maine’s over 100 dams, and an equivalent amount of electricity as is used by 27,000 Maine homes.) Construction of the wind farm will also provide several hundred jobs and an economic boost to Washington County. In addition, the developer, Evergreen/UPC, has committed at least $100,000 for land and water conservation related work around Stetson Mountain and Baskahegan Lake.
“The Stetson wind farm is a big step toward a cleaner, brighter future for Maine, but the state—and LURC—still have much work to do. NRCM strongly supports two other wind power applications currently before LURC, involving the Black Nubble project and the Kibby project, and we hope today’s decision foreshadows approval of both of those projects as well,” said Voorhees.
The coal plant proposed for Wiscasset contrasts sharply with these wind farms. It would simultaneously become the state’s largest source of mercury pollution and double the global warming pollution from Maine’s power plants. “This coal plant was proposed based on the promise of gasification technology, but it was clear that the developer couldn’t deliver on that promise,” said Voorhees. “This vote is a testament to the hard work of local citizens to bring forward the truth about this proposal: the plant would have been disastrous for our environment and way of life. However Maine can’t rely on this kind of local grassroots efforts alone to guide our energy future—we need clear state policy on coal, such as the bill Representative Bruce MacDonald is proposing this session”
Rep. MacDonald’s bill would require any new coal-fueled power plant in Maine to capture and store global warming pollution.
“Rarely have Maine’s energy choices been in such clear contrast. Whether you are concerned about the enormous threat of global warming, the ongoing problem of mercury in our fish and wildlife, or the development of a growing clean energy sector for our economy, these decisions make sense for Maine,” said Voorhees
LURC held a public hearing for the Stetson project on August 8, 2007. The 38 turbine project has gained support from a variety of environmental organizations (including NRCM, Maine Audubon and the Appalachian Mountain Club), as well as Washington County Commissioners and other local governments. The wind turbines will be located along the low-lying ridge (mostly below 1,100 feet) and will be visible from some local vantage points, including Baskahegan Lake. However the project is distant from residential development and will have modest visual impacts.
NRCM has been a leading advocate for wind power in Maine, and works aggressively to reduce our overall demand for electricity by promoting energy efficiency investments in homes and businesses.
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