Appalachian Mountain Club, Maine Audubon, and Natural Resources Council of Maine support additional eight wind turbines but oppose seven wind turbines proposed for sensitive ecological area
CARRABASSETT VALLEY, Maine — At a public hearing on wind power held today by the Land Use Regulation Commission, the Appalachian Mountain Club, Maine Audubon, and the Natural Resources Council of Maine announced partial support for a proposed expansion of the Kibby Wind Power Project by TransCanada. The organizations said they will support the northernmost eight turbines in the proposed 45 megawatt (MW) expansion on Sisk Mountain, which lies adjacent to Kibby Mountain, where TransCanada is currently completing a 132 MW wind power project. They oppose the location of the southernmost seven turbines, which would be located in the middle of a large block of rare subalpine forest that provides habitat for species of concern like the Bicknell’s thrush. The southern part of the expansion would also negatively impact the nearby Chain of Ponds, a group of ponds rated by the state as having “outstanding” scenic significance, as well as public land and recreational use along the ponds.
All three conservation organizations actively support appropriately sited wind power as a clean energy solution in Maine. In 2007 the three groups supported the original Kibby Wind Power Project with appropriate mitigation, noting that it provided large amounts of clean energy while avoiding impacts to important mountain resources.
“We strongly support Maine’s goal of developing 2,000 megawatts of wind power by 2015 because doing so will reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and is an essential part of our regional strategy to significantly reduce global warming pollution,” said Dylan Voorhees, Clean Energy Director of the Natural Resources Council of Maine. “NRCM recognizes the balance that must be struck between producing clean energy and protecting mountain and scenic resources. In our final analysis, we find part of this project achieves that balance, and part of it does not.”
TransCanada filed its permit application to expand its Kibby Mountain Project onto the Sisk Range with the Maine Land Use Regulation Commission (LURC) in December 2009. The project is located within Maine’s expedited wind permitting area. In addition, TransCanada has petitioned LURC to expand the expedited permitting area along Sisk Mountain in an area immediately south of the proposed expansion project. [See attached map—Attachment D from TransCanada’s petition.] The three conservation organizations announced today that they oppose the petition because it compromises the principal values and goals of LURC’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan as prohibited by law.
Development of the seven turbines, and in the petition area, would harm subalpine habitat, threatened wildlife and scenic and recreational resources. The groups agreed, however, that development of the northern eight turbines—which would provide 24 MW of additional wind power—meet the requirements of the law and should be permitted by LURC.
“Climate change is a serious, high-stakes threat to Maine’s wildlife, which is why we support aspects of this proposal, and why we support clean, renewable energy in general,” said Ted Koffman, Maine Audubon executive director. “However, we cannot support the elements of TransCanada’s proposal that would threaten high-value habitat. Unique and uncommon natural features run right through the middle of this area, which also includes a rare, sub-alpine wildlife community and a large wetland habitat that sustains an animal on Maine’s threatened species list. Clearly, this isn’t an appropriate location for commercial wind power.”
“Subalpine forests make up less than one-fifth of one percent of Maine’s landscape, and are an important part of its ecological diversity”, said Dr. David Publicover, senior forest ecologist for the Appalachian Mountain Club. “This high-elevation area, which is dominated by a rare natural community that provides habitat for one of the northeast’s rarest songbirds and which lies within the viewshed of an outstanding scenic area, constitutes a significant natural area that is not appropriate for development.”
The groups noted that one of the four principal goals of LURC’s comprehensive plan is to “Maintain the natural character of certain areas within the jurisdiction having significant natural values and primitive recreation opportunities.” [emphasis added] Given that this is the first time LURC has reviewed a petition to expand the expedited area, the groups encouraged the Commission to proceed cautiously.
LURC held a public hearing today at the Sugarloaf Resort on the petition to expand the expedited permitting area. A public hearing on the project permit is scheduled for mid-May. All three organizations are intervenors in that application.
THE NATURAL RESOURCES COUNCIL OF MAINE is a nonprofit membership organization protecting, restoring, and conserving Maine’s environment, for today and for future generations. NRCM works to improve the quality of Maine’s rivers, reduce poisonous chemicals threatening human and wildlife health, decrease air and global warming pollution, and conserve Maine lands. NRCM harnesses the power of the law, science, and the voices of 12,000 supporters.
THE APPALACHIAN MOUNTAIN CLUB, founded in 1876, is the oldest conservation and recreation organization in the United States. With over 100,000 members, advocates and supporters in the Northeast and beyond, the nonprofit AMC promotes the protection, enjoyment, and understanding of the mountains, forests, waters, and trails of the Appalachian region.
MAINE AUDUBON works to conserve Maine’s wildlife and wildlife habitat by engaging people of all ages in education, conservation and action. For more than 160 years, Maine Audubon has been connecting people with nature and leading science-based conservation in major projects across the state. An independent affiliate of Audubon’s national organization, Maine Audubon has seven local chapters, 11 nature centers and sanctuaries, and 11,000 members and supporters.