AUGUSTA, Maine — State officials received 20 petitions on Monday from residents who oppose fast-tracking permit approvals of industrial wind sites in their portions of Maine’s Unorganized Territory.
The Moosehead Region Futures Committee gave the Land Use Planning Commission petitions from Denniston Plantation and 14 townships in the Moosehead Lake, Kennebec River and Moose River Valley regions — some of Maine’s most tourism-dominated regions, said Richard McDonald, a member of the committee’s board of directors.
The committee opposes EverPower‘s tentative plan to install 24 wind turbines on ridges near Big Indian Pond and SunEdison‘s possible 26-turbine project for Misery Ridge between Rockwood and Jackman. The companies have placed test towers in those areas but have not submitted formal plans, McDonald said.
“What is the economic driver of the region? It is tourism. Moosehead is a mecca,” McDonald said Monday. “It is where people go to see pristine, natural undisturbed landscapes where they want to recreate, relax and enjoy the area. It’s what people want to do there year-round. It’s not just a place to go in the summer.”
The commission also accepted five more petitions, from Lexington Township and Highland Plantation of Somerset County, Carroll Plantation of Penobscot County, Trescott Township of Washington County and Molunkus Township of Aroostook County, said Nicholas Livesay, the commission’s executive director.
Monday was the first day the Land Use Planning Commission could accept petitions under a new state law, An Act To Improve Regulatory Consistency within the Jurisdiction of the Maine Land Use Planning Commission.
Anti-wind advocates say the new law restores residents’ rights lost in the Maine Wind Energy Act. Wind-to-energy proponents say that the law inhibits the growth of an important enviro-industry that has drawn millions of dollars to rural northern Maine.
Under the act, wind farms were automatically permitted in the Unorganized Territory, which covers nearly half the state, mostly in rural areas in the western- and northern-most portions of Maine. The new law requires wind-energy developers to seek zoning approval if state officials certify petitions signed by at least 10 percent of a given registered zone’s voters in the most recent gubernatorial election.
Wind proponents have said that the new law effectively doubles the permitting process for wind projects, thereby creating investor uncertainty. Wind opponents say it allows residents more say in what happens around them by triggering hearings in which residents’ input is given weight.
The Maine Bureau of Corporations, Elections & Commissions will begin certifying petition signatures in the next several weeks, Livesay said.
Under the law, residents have until July 1 to submit petitions. The Legislature set the six-month period to allow residents enough time to remove areas from the expedited wind-permitting zones and to limit wind investor uncertainty, Livesay said.
McDonald said he was unaware of any stand taken for or against the two potential EverPower and SunEdison projects by officials in Greenville, the region’s largest town. Greenville Town Manager John Simko and Greenville Board of Selectmen Chairman Richard Peat did not return messages left on Monday.