I am asking the county commissioners to reverse their decision supporting placement of wind turbines on privately owned Garrett County ridges and vigorously pursue strategies that would prevent this use of private land in our county. It is very clear to me that Maryland's politicized Public Service Commission will not safeguard the citizens of Garrett County.
Furthermore, our county's influence pales in comparison to that of our far Eastern counties and state government. As was discussed at the Jan. 30 public hearing at Garrett College, Garrett County is seen as the path of least resistance for the state of Maryland to meet her alternative energy mandates.
I would like for our county to make it very clear that we are NOT the path of least resistance ...
During a week filled with concerns about protecting the environment comes the alarming news that state officials are considering exploiting one resource to develop another.
As reported by The Sun's Tom Pelton, the O'Malley administration is weighing a request from Pennsylvania developers to lease and clear-cut 400 mountaintop acres in two state forests in Western Maryland so they can erect 100 wind turbines, 40 stories tall, to supply clean power to just 55,000 homes.
This counterproductive proposal should be rejected out of hand. Publicly owned land should be not be leased to private developers for any purpose, much less one that by definition will deny access to and enjoyment of that land to the public. ...Wind power is very attractive because it offers a renewable energy source that does not emit the pollutants that contribute to global warming and poison the Chesapeake Bay. But windmills don't come without their own costs to the environment and to the quality of life of those who live nearby. Whether densely populated Maryland is an appropriate place for wind farms is still an open question.
The only windmill project to win state approval so far got it through a General Assembly mandate to overrule environmental conditions applied by the Public Service Commission.
Even if I believed that wind industry in Maryland could significantly replace Maryland's fossil fuel plants to meet our present and future demands, I would still be opposed to permanently altering the forested Appalachian ridges, especially on the state owned lands. As it is, even stacked side by side on top of all of those ridges, those turbines would generate an almost meaningless amount of energy to the PJM grid especially during the annual peak demand in the summer when the winds are so variable and blow the least.
Mr. Maisano's repeated assertions that the land is already under industrial use is highly deceptive. Timbering practices while temporarily disruptive to the forests does permit the land to regenerate. Permanent placement of turbines that require the destruction of thousands of acres of forest for placement of turbines, access roads, and electrical conveyance corridors, will not allow the forest to recover.
Mr. O'Malley's decision might even be considered courageous in light of his belief that massive wind technology should be part of the mix that will drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions and end our dependence on foreign oil. The governor is a busy man with much on his mind - all the more reason that he should surround himself with staff who can provide him with better information.
He seemed genuinely surprised when afterwards he was told that oil only contributes 0.3 of 1.0 percent toward the production of our electricity, making it clear that wind energy can do nothing to mitigate our reliance on foreign oil. And given the thermal implications involved in balancing wind's volatility, among other factors, the technology can offset at best relatively miniscule levels of carbon emissions. ...County leaders should work to prohibit such development before it devalues property (as even the threat of it has already done), creates unlawful noise, kills wildlife, diminishes hunting grounds, and otherwise diminishes how we literally see ourselves.
This ruling also puts the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, an agency whose mission includes the protection of endangered species, in an awkward position. Current Maryland law exempts any industrial wind plant project from a comprehensive environmental review process if its generating capacity is limited to 70MW or less. This exemption was passed two years ago after being pushed by Wayne Rogers, a well-connected entrepreneur who has been a generous donor to Democratic campaigns across the state and the country, is a former state Democratic Party chairman, served as chairman of Governor O'Malley's Energy Transition Team, and just happens to be president of Synergics LLC, the company that will build one of the two approved projects in Garrett County.
Harnessing the wind and doing all we can to utilize all kinds of clean, renewable energy sources should be the goal of all of us. But this particular technology is so far proving to be expensive, inefficient, and unreliable. So, Governor O'Malley, before wrecking our ridges, how about first going ahead with the offshore plan at Ocean City and see how it goes in terms of production and efficiency? (After all, on hazy days, we won't be able to see them ...
Wellfleet residents would be making a big mistake if they backed the proposed 400-foot wind turbine in the White Crest Beach area. There are simply too many instances of towns regretting decisions to fast track plans to be in the forefront of the green energy movement.