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Maine groups reach agreement with wind developer

"This does more for PR value for First Wind than it does anything else," says Chris O'Neil, who is with Friends of Maine's Mountains, which actively opposes the 62-turbine project in Bingham, Kingsbury Plantation and Mayfield Township. He says he's glad that the groups got something out of the agreement, but wonders why First Wind would offer anything at all, given that the groups presented no real challenge to the project.

A spokesman for a group that opposes what could become the state's largest wind project says he has mixed feelings about an agreement reached between a number of Appalachian trail conservation groups and the developer. Chris O'Neil of Friends of Maine's Mountains says he's glad the conservation groups were able to get something out of developer First Wind, in the form of a $700,000 land acquisition fund, but he says the groups could have acted more decisively earlier on the permitting process. Keith Shortall reports.

The agreement announced Tuesday between a subsidiary of developer First Wind and a coalition of non-profit Appalachian Trail groups is designed to mitigate concerns about protecting the scenery along the trail near the project site in Someret and Piscataquis counties.

"And as we were able to develop this agreement with First Wind, our organizations agreed that we would not oppose the project," says Appalachian Mountain Club Research Director Kenneth Kimball.

Kimball says the first component of the agreement is that First Wind will provide a $700,000 land conservation fund to buy easements, or to outright purchase land along the trail

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

A spokesman for a group that opposes what could become the state's largest wind project says he has mixed feelings about an agreement reached between a number of Appalachian trail conservation groups and the developer. Chris O'Neil of Friends of Maine's Mountains says he's glad the conservation groups were able to get something out of developer First Wind, in the form of a $700,000 land acquisition fund, but he says the groups could have acted more decisively earlier on the permitting process. Keith Shortall reports.

The agreement announced Tuesday between a subsidiary of developer First Wind and a coalition of non-profit Appalachian Trail groups is designed to mitigate concerns about protecting the scenery along the trail near the project site in Someret and Piscataquis counties.

"And as we were able to develop this agreement with First Wind, our organizations agreed that we would not oppose the project," says Appalachian Mountain Club Research Director Kenneth Kimball.

Kimball says the first component of the agreement is that First Wind will provide a $700,000 land conservation fund to buy easements, or to outright purchase land along the trail

"The second component of the agreement has a condition that First Wind will not build any turbines any closer than 8 miles to the Appalachian Trail in this project area," Kimball says. "And then the third component is that First Wind has agreed once it is approved by the FAA to radar-activate lighting, which would mean that night lighting would only be on at times when aircraft are approaching the wind farm."

Kimball says the coalition, which also includes the Maine Appalachian Trail Club and Appalachian Trail Conservancy, had publicly raised these concerns, but had not filed any formal challenges. And he says the agreement with First Wind does not mean that the AT groups will support the project, only that they will not oppose it.

"This does more for PR value for First Wind than it does anything else," says Chris O'Neil, who is with Friends of Maine's Mountains, which actively opposes the 62-turbine project in Bingham, Kingsbury Plantation and Mayfield Township.

He says he's glad that the groups got something out of the agreement, but wonders why First Wind would offer anything at all, given that the groups presented no real challenge to the project.

"They didn't need to provide concessions to these clubs. You have to understand - none of these clubs filed for intervenor status, as far as I know, none of these clubs even asked for a public hearing when they had the opportunity to," O'Neil says. "That's when they would have had some leverage if they really wanted to negotiate a deal."

O'Neil says he's glad that the clubs got the land purchase money, but says the 8-mile distance provision and the radar activated night light provision would likely have been required anyway. First Wind Vice President of Business Development Matt Kearns says the company saw the agreement as a way to address the concerns about visual impacts of the project.

"We wanted to take that issue head on, and we want to confront it," Kearns says. "We want to help protect land - that's what this agreement is about."

The AMC's Kenneth Kimball says the club understands that wind projects will be approved in Maine, and that it's important to have a say in how the negative impacts can be addressed.

"And, in this particular case, the AT community looked at the whole environment out there and made a determination that it really made sense to try to work with First Wind to mitigate some of the impacts that will come from this particular project," he says.

The Bingham project is now before the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, awaiting a decision ib its permit application.


Source: http://www.mpbn.net/News/Ma...

FEB 19 2014
https://www.windaction.org/posts/39853-maine-groups-reach-agreement-with-wind-developer
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