This week, Angus King, former Maine Governor turned wind developer, set out to correct the record on what he termed 'myths' about wind power now circulating. His opinion piece, while devoid of any substantive proof other than his say so and a link to his project's web site, in fact, was teeming with his own myths and half-truths that deserve clarification.
King first takes issue with Jonathan Carter of Forest Ecology Network and Carter's description of mountaintop wind operations resulting in "the building of thousands of miles of additional power lines and roads [and]...the clear cutting of more than 50,000 acres of carbon-sequestering forestlands. Literally the tops of the mountains are blown-up in order to establish a bedrock base for the massive concrete pads needed to support 400-to-500-foot turbines."
King quibbles over the petty claiming dirt and rock on the mountain top are not actually removed from the mountain but merely "moved from one place to another in building the gravel access road and foundations." Perhaps the Governor missed the photos taken at the TransCanada wind site atop Kibby Mountain in Maine, where 50-60 foot ledge cuts into the side the of the mountain were required to construct roads stable enough to handle the weight and width of the turbine components. Or the more infamous photo of the Mars Hill wind site, also in Maine, showing just how much the mountaintop was blown off to make way for the towers. We believe that most people would agree with Jonathan Carter.
The next 'myth' King takes on is that of noise. He claims "our" law, presumably Maine's law, is "pretty restrictive" but that "several of the early wind projects in Maine got waivers from the noise limits and there are neighbors who are hearing them and are pretty upset." King would do well to check his facts. Only one wind project, Mars Hill Wind, was granted a variance that would permit the project to operate at 50 db(A) as opposed to the required 45 db(A). Nonetheless, his statement is not relevant to the project sites in Vinalhaven and Freedom, Maine -- both of which are experiencing severe noise issues. Nor does it apply to the Stetson wind facility, approved by Maine's Land Use Regulatory Commission, which follows different standards altogether for noise.
He goes on to say that "our" experience shows that setback distances of around half a mile are adequate for addressing noise problems. Since King has never operated a wind facility we're not sure whose experience he's relying on, but he may wish to speak with Ethan Hall of Vinalhaven. Hall, who lives 3,500 feet from three industrial towers, recently explained that the noise penetrates his home where he is unable to read, work, or get good rest.
King's third myth argues that Maine's wind power law was not pushed through the legislature by wind proponents as claimed by some. What he doesn't bother to tell his readers is that the "Expedited Permit" wind law was declared an emergency bill from the governor and it passed through the legislature in 15 days with very little scrutiny. And that State Representative Jon Hinck, co-chairman of Maine's utilities and energy committee, who was responsible for giving the bill the emergency designation, is married to Juliet Browne, an attorney who represents wind interests in the State and who sat on the Governor's Wind Task Force. This week, Hinck asked the Maine Ethics Commission for an advisory opinion on whether he has a conflict of interest when considering wind legislation. A little late, but at least he's asking.
Finally, King scoffs at the idea that wind turbines can make you sick. He makes vague reference to "independent analyses" including Maine's own Dr. Dora Mills and the Maine Center for Disease Control in claiming turbines can annoy people but nothing more.
In December, Windaction.org reported on the Industry's misuse of the term 'annoyance' in claiming that noise impacts are of no consequence.
Equally significant is the e-mail paper trail -- one that King is well aware of -- which begins February 10, 2009 after Dr. Albert Aniel of Rumford, Maine forwarded an open letter from the Rumford Hospital Medical staff, together with links to articles, to Dr. Mills asking for her support for a moratorium on new permits for wind turbine projects until further research could be done on possible health effects of wind turbines.
As detailed in the e-mails, Dr. Mills looked to Maine's Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner David Littell, and others at DEP involved in reviewing wind turbine projects, for assistance in refuting the health concerns of Dr. Aniel.
King then closes with some misrepresentations of his own.
In a subsection of his essay entitled "A Dangerous Dependence" he claims that Maine is "dangerously dependent upon fossil fuels " citing 55 percent of its electricity coming from oil and gas with 100 percent imported "often from people who don't like us." But what he doesn't tell you is that Maine's net electricity generation is among the lowest in the United States with a large percentage of its energy exported to other states in the region. As with most of New England, natural gas -- imported mostly from friendly Canada --accounts for around 40 percent of generation. And renewable sources, mainly wood and hydroelectric, account for almost half of Maine's net electricity generation. In fact, nonhydroelectric renewable energy sources make up a larger share of net electricity generation in Maine than in any other State.
Maine is hardly the poster-state for dirty electricty!
Governor King is certainly welcome to respond to statements by those in his State who are raising concerns about wind, and of course he is entitled to his own opinion. But apparently, he also believes he's entitled to his own facts.