Library from Maryland
The Allegany-Garrett Sportsmen's Association determined Tuesday that it's 2,500-member organization would weigh in concerning a recent request by US Wind Force to place windmills on state forest land managed by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. "We will research the issue and discuss the matter at our January meeting before voting on it," said Bill Wilhelm, named Tuesday as the group's president for the upcoming year. Some, however, were ready to voice their opinions right away. "We should oppose any windmills on state lands and also study any impacts if they would be put on private lands," said Mike Rugola, who will be AGSA's secretary during 2008. Outgoing President Mike Griffith agreed and noted that AGSA's next meeting and vote would take place before DNR meetings on the subject are conducted.
... a proposal by U.S. Wind Force to lease 400 mountaintop acres in the Savage River State Forest and Potomac State Forest so it can install about 100 wind turbines the size of the Washington Monument, may be one of the most destructive and dangerous policy proposals ever to confront he citizens of Allegany and Garrett Counties. ...It is very troubling that Gov. O'Malley is even considering this proposal, while at the same time promoting tourism and economic growth in our region. This is good stewardship of our natural resources and an improvement to our public land? This is government working in our behalf? At the Mountain Maryland PACE Legislative Breakfast held earlier this year, our Governor said, " ... we are preserving our heritage - protecting our forests ... and promoting tourism." Really?
Topics from wind turbines on state land to alcohol sales on Sunday were discussed at a legislative forum held on Saturday at Garrett College. "We continue to have problems on the southern part of the county (with wind turbines)," Bob Lewis of Oakland said. "But I sense a lot of opposition on this. There are people taking a stand against this that have not previously taken a side on the issue." Delegate Wendell Beitzel and Sen. George Edwards both discussed their views on this current topic of debate. Beitzel said he was opposed to placing industrial windmills on state forests, saying the land is something that needs preserved. He said other parts of the state are coping with the loss of farmland and open space because of development. "We're really lucky to have this state land in the county," he said. "I'm very much opposed to these."
U.S. Wind Force, a Pennsylvania-based company, has made a request of the state of Maryland to lease some 400 acres of state forestland to place 100 turbines atop Backbone and Meadow mountains. These would, of course, be in addition to dozens of other turbines tentatively scheduled to be erected on private property on Backbone. ...because this proposal calls for the use of "protected," state-owned (that is, technically, citizen-owned) lands for these projects, we have a whole new ballgame, and every single resident of Garrett County - even those who generally support wind-produced energy - should vehemently oppose it. If Governor O'Malley and the other two members of the Public Service Commission approve this (and the governor is really the only individual who has the power to stop it), it will be an absolute travesty. It would amount to our own governor selling us out here in Garrett County by opening this particular door that will lead to the degradation of our most pristine land; a door that would never again be closed.
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."
Wind power in Western Maryland has long been an issue of debate, but a recent proposal made by a Pennsylvania-based company could involve a change in policy for leasing out state lands for wind turbines. US Wind Force has made a request at the state level to lease about 400 acres atop Backbone and Meadow Mountains, located in the Potomac-Garrett and Savage River state forests, with a total of around 100 turbines at the two locations. "I think this has to be handled on a case by case basis," Ernie Gregg, commission chairman said. "Some areas of the state could accommodate that. It needs to be handled judiciously."
Mark Diehl, conservation chairman of the Western Maryland Group of the Sierra Club, and Sam White, Western Maryland representative of the Maryland Sierra Club, both told the District 1 legislative delegation Saturday during a public forum at Allegany College of Maryland they oppose that type of renewable, clean, alternative energy source. But why? For starters, Diehl said, "it's just not worth it. It seems like a good idea" but it's not. He said it would take too many tall, unsightly turbines - "thousands, maybe tens of thousands" - to gather enough wind and produce enough energy to make a difference. The alteration of the area's scenic beauty, he said, isn't worth the sacrifice.
Opinions remain mixed over the O'Malley administration's proposal to lease state park land for wind power turbines. ...for Peter Skylstad and Kevin Dodge, wildlife biologists and professors at Garrett College, the loss of 400 acres just for the turbines makes them wary of things to come. Skylstad said he is worried that it is something that would set a precedent for other permanent impacts and the continued shrinking of the size of the forest ecosystem. He added that as the property proposed is public land, he doesn't feel it is something the state can make a profit from. "The public should make that decision," Skylstad said. "At least they should be informed. One of the reasons I came here is I appreciated what Maryland had up here, and they keep inching into that environment."
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.
A Pennsylvania company is asking the O'Malley administration for leases in two Western Maryland state forests so it can clear up to 400 mountaintop acres to build about 100 wind turbines. The U.S. Wind Force structures would be about 40 stories tall and visible from some of the region's most popular tourist areas, including Deep Creek Lake and the Savage River Reservoir. ...Dan Boone, a former state wildlife biologist who has been fighting wind farms in Western Maryland, said the Savage River and Potomac state forests contain rare old-growth trees and threatened species. "You are talking about taking one of the most spectacular scenic overlooks in Maryland and industrializing it," Boone said of a proposed site on Meadow Mountain in the Savage River forest. "It would be a real tragedy to take state lands and convert them into an industrial theme park for U.S. Wind Force."
A Baltimore judge has affirmed a state Public Service Commission ruling favoring a proposed wind power project in Garrett County. ...Project opponent D. Daniel Boone had filed for judicial review of the decision. He claimed the change violated a settlement agreement the PSC accepted when it approved the project in 2003.
Bluewater Wind, the company that has plans to build a wind farm off Rehoboth Beach, says it also wants to build one off Ocean City, Md. Jim Lanard, spokesman for Bluewater Wind, said the company has recently been floating the idea to state officials and citizens. He said Maryland is expected to need an additional 1,890 megawatts of electricity by 2015, and a wind farm would help provide that electricity without the pollutants of a fossil fuel plant.
A company seeking to build an offshore wind farm off the Delaware coast has begun discussions about building the wind turbines in Maryland waters, too, according to state and company officials. Bluewater Wind, a New Jersey energy company, wants to put 150 turbines 11 1/2 miles off the coast of the resort town of Ocean City. ...Angel Conner, manager of the Shoreham Hotel on Ocean's City's boardwalk, said she doubted people would stop coming to Ocean City because of wind turbines. "I don't think it would affect us, as long as they could still see the water," Conner said.
Gov. Martin O'Malley inspected some proposed wind-power sites in the western Maryland mountains Friday and said he is seeking a balance between the need for clean, renewable energy and the potential for environmental damage from scores of giant windmills. ...But O'Malley said he hasn't yet decided whether he wants giant turbines lining Maryland's highest ridges at the chosen sites.
Dominion Power and the Grant County Commission responded to a Mount Storm resident's concerns about the potential for ice on the blades of wind turbines this winter. Bruce Halgren of Mount Storm appeared before commissioners Jim Wilson, Charlie Goldizen and Jim Cole Tuesday. He said that he is concerned that the proximity of some of the NedPower wind turbines being constructed along Grassy Ridge Road could present a safety hazard to motorists from ice and debris being thrown off by the turbine blades in the wintertime.
The PSC approved the project in 2003, but also established a set of requirements for Savage Mountain, including a time frame that ends in 2008. The approval also required the company to conduct additional study of the project’s effect on birds and bats — though that study does not have to be released until the project is operating. The conditions were negotiated with D. Daniel Boone, a Bowie environmental consultant who intervened in the case. He said he opposed an extension of time without a wider renegotiation of the approval.
This important peer-reviewed paper written by bat expert Dr. Thomas H. Kunz et al identifies the significant risk wind turbines pose for migratory and local bat populations in the mid-Atlantic Highlands region of the United States. The projected number of annual fatalities of bats at wind energy facilities in the Highlands in the year 2020 can reach up to 111,000 bats.
When his plan for clean energy ran smack into a rare habitat on a rocky Appalachian ridge, Annapolis businessman Wayne L. Rogers turned to people he knew could help: his contacts in the Maryland General Assembly. State law and the environmental protections it afforded all but scuttled his proposal last year for 24 windmills atop Backbone Mountain at the state's western edge. So Rogers waged a successful campaign to have the law changed -- and environmental review gutted -- for wind-energy projects such as his.
Legislators in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic passed a number of bills applying to the electric power industry, with several states committing to emissions reductions through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and other states making broad organizational changes to their regulatory processes.
The wind power law allows developers to build wind farms without a certificate of public convenience from the Maryland Public Service Commission. While critics argued it will cut out public input on wind projects, the law's supporters said the law only removes extra environmental reviews that were stifling wind power development in Maryland. Frank Maisano, a spokesman for a coalition of Mid-Atlantic wind-power developers, said the law was needed to help the state meet goals for Maryland-produced renewable power. But critics say that under the new law, strides toward renewable power could come at the expense of wildlife.