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Where’s the public scrutiny?

Cumberland Times-News|Jon Boone|May 5, 2009
Maryland

In announcing the new hearing, the commissioners referred to county wind energy legislation they enacted in 2002 “to regulate location and setback standards.” However, none should infer from this statement that this legislation had a high pubic purpose. Instead, the record will show the commissioners gutted height restrictions in place at the time, replacing them with “regulations” taken directly from the boilerplate of limited liability wind companies, allowing them virtually unfettered access to Allegany County’s landscape.


Allegany County's commissioners have scheduled a public hearing today on recent proposals to establish siting controls on wind technology in the county, after giving US Windforce a private hour to make its case against those proposals.

In announcing the new hearing, the commissioners referred to county wind energy legislation they enacted in 2002 "to regulate location and setback standards." However, none should infer from this statement that this legislation had a high pubic purpose.

Instead, the record will show the commissioners gutted height restrictions in place at the time, replacing them with "regulations" taken directly from the boilerplate of limited liability wind companies, allowing them virtually unfettered access to Allegany County's landscape.

It might be instructive to clarify the roles played then by both representatives of US Windforce and state representative Cas Taylor, who was on the threshold of becoming the principal Maryland lobbyist for the wind industry, a position he held for much of the last six years.

The ... more [truncated due to possible copyright]

     

Allegany County's commissioners have scheduled a public hearing today on recent proposals to establish siting controls on wind technology in the county, after giving US Windforce a private hour to make its case against those proposals.

In announcing the new hearing, the commissioners referred to county wind energy legislation they enacted in 2002 "to regulate location and setback standards." However, none should infer from this statement that this legislation had a high pubic purpose.

Instead, the record will show the commissioners gutted height restrictions in place at the time, replacing them with "regulations" taken directly from the boilerplate of limited liability wind companies, allowing them virtually unfettered access to Allegany County's landscape.

It might be instructive to clarify the roles played then by both representatives of US Windforce and state representative Cas Taylor, who was on the threshold of becoming the principal Maryland lobbyist for the wind industry, a position he held for much of the last six years.

The ultimate truth about their participation might have to come from sworn testimony from county staff, under penalty of perjury, since no one seems comfortable discussing it publicly. Certainly US Windforce has stridently avoided having its claims placed under the scrutiny of informed rebuttal in a regulatory process.

In any event, the reality is that much of the newly proposed siting controls are an attempt to remedy the utter lack of public protection that resulted from that 2002 wind legislation.

As former state Sen. John Bambacus, and others, have pointed out, this is even more important now that state officials, with the active lobbying support of Mr. Taylor, removed state regulatory protections against wildcat wind projects.

One hopes these issues will be discussed at the public hearing today. Perhaps the commissioners at this hearing will produce evidence of how thoroughly they have researched the many health and nuisance issues associated with industrial wind technology - and what remedies they propose for people who might be affected by them.

Perhaps they will also consider stating how they will handle any grievances from those whose properties are devalued by wind projects.

Maybe they will share whether or not they will change the zoning status of properties hosting industrial wind turbines from agricultural to industrial, certainly not an unreasonable - or unfair - idea.

And maybe they'll produce signed contracts guaranteeing firm, long-term revenues from US Windforce.

Although one can sympathize with the predicament of political leaders in rural counties these days, who face the difficult task of augmenting shrinking revenues in the face of increasing public demand for services, Allegany's commissioners must understand the implications of massive industrial wind development - before they enable it.

For it represents the most land-extensive operation in the recent history of Western Maryland and its deployment (the present US Windforce project is only phase one) would alter the face and character of the region for generations, while providing relatively miniscule energy.

And it would place at risk much of what county residents, indeed, the whole of Western Maryland, including its sporting enthusiasts, hold dear.

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Source:http://www.times-news.com/let…

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