Zoning/Planning and Maryland
Frostburg resident John Bambacus wrote Delegate Wendell Beitzel in February, asking him to sponsor the repeal of a law passed in 2007 that exempts industrial wind farms from public scrutiny.
He asked again this week in light of Gov. Martin O'Malley's apparent willingness to consider being a part of an industrial wind energy facility off the shores of Ocean City. This time, the former state senator received the answer he wanted. ...Right now, "land-based wind turbines are on a fast-track (approval process). They get no environmental, health or safety review" from the Maryland Public Service Commission, the Department of the Environment or other agencies, much less the general public.
The Garrett County Democratic Central Committee voted to oppose a proposal to use public state forest land to build industrial-size wind turbine plants in the Potomac State Forest and the Savage River State Forest. The GCDCC will present testimony in opposition at the Maryland Department of Natural Resources public hearing ..."We are aware of the lobbying in Annapolis that US Wind Force is paying for," he continued, "and we are aware of the law that was passed deregulating wind plants. We also know that the county has not adopted any zoning laws restricting wind industry development, and the draft Garrett County Comprehensive Plan appears to encourage such development."
Stanton said that the effect of those decisions is to block most opportunities for public input. "Therefore it is absolutely critical that the public be heard through at-tending and speaking at the public hearings, through letters and e-mails, and by telephone calls."
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources will hold public hearings next month on whether the state should allow developers to build wind turbines in state forests, a proposal being advanced by a Pennsylvania company.
U.S. Wind Force is asking the state for leases in Potomac State Forest and Savage River State Forest in Western Maryland so it can clear about 400 mountaintop acres and raise about 100 wind turbines. ..."Maryland is committed to developing clean, renewable energy sources that support a healthy environment," said Natural Resources Secretary John R. Griffin. "However, our public lands belong to Maryland's citizens and it is critical they have a voice in a decision-making process that could forever change our rural landscape."
Olivia Campbell, media relations manager for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources said, "it's ended and we're going to start reviewing the comments. I would expect a decision shortly. It's not going to be delayed, drawn out."
Campbell said that when it comes to the question of whether the turbines should be placed on state forest land, the comments were nearly 80 percent opposed to the idea. She said those comments came from across the state and there were hundreds of comments made between the online comment area and the two public hearings at Garrett College and in Annapolis at the end of January.
Frank Maisano, a spokesman for wind developers, said he feels there is still a silent majority of Garrett County residents in favor of wind power.
Local residents who attended Tuesday's Garrett County commissioners meeting feel that the draft of the county comprehensive plan does not recognize their opinions on bringing wind power to the county.
"I've been disappointed that you've held no hearings, answered no questions and basically you put what I know to be a developer boiler plate for your passage in the comprehensive plan," John Boone said.
Boone argued that not only does the draft plan seem to show support for the existence of wind power in Garrett County, but that he believes such support is unfounded.
The portion of the plan reads, "While the county acknowledges the potential negative impacts of wind power facilities, it also recognizes the benefits, especially those related to clean, sustainable power generation, and the socioeconomic and fiscal benefits to the county. On balance, the county supports wind power at appropriate locations, provided any site-specific negative impacts can be mitigated."