Library from Maryland
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."
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.
Frederick County's federal elected representatives are keeping an open mind about a proposed power line that would end in Kemptown. U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-6) touted the benefits of the proposed twin-500 volt power line that will run through parts of the county in a statement Friday. "Residents and businesses in the Sixth District expect to have electricity for heat, light and air conditioning when they need it," he said. "In addition to these benefits, an upgraded transmission system could accommodate more renewable energy generation, such as wind or solar power." The state's two senators, however, were more reserved when discussing the line.
Opponents of a wind turbine facility in Garrett County went zero-for-two Thursday when the Maryland Court of Appeals ruled a second time that their challenge had not been properly executed. In both cases, local business and land-owners challenged the way the Public Service Commission approved Clipper Windpower Inc.'s construction of a 41-acre project along Backbone Mountain. In the latest appeal, dubbed "Clipper II," the state's highest court upheld a lower court's dismissal of the opponents' request for a declaratory judgment against the project. The Garrett County Circuit Court found that it would be "inappropriate" to consider a declaratory judgment while another case involving the same parties and issues, called Clipper I, was pending before the Court of Special Appeals. Thus, the circuit court argued, the petitioners did not exhaust all other remedies provided them under state law.
WASHINGTON - The House rejected a resolution Wednesday that would block government plans to spur construction of major new power lines in many states regardless of local opposition. The issue has been contentious in parts of the East Coast and in the Southwest, where two high priority transmission corridors for power lines were proposed. Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., warned colleagues that unwanted power lines could come to their district.
The state Court of Appeals cleared a California energy company yesterday to build what would be Maryland's first windmill farm, a 42-turbine facility along Backbone Mountain in Garrett County. The wind farm was approved by the Public Service Commission in 2003, though it was not built because the developer, Clipper Windpower Inc., initially was unable to induce utility companies to buy power from the facility. The project now has utility customers and is expected to proceed.
Maryland's highest court on Friday cleared the way for a wind-power project in Garrett County that was challenged by a neighbor. The court unanimously ruled that the challenge by Eric Tribbey to the 67-turbine project was not valid.