Riding the wind at the legislature – It’s all about scenery

The hearing room and the hallway outside were crowded with friends and foes of wind power today as the legislature’s Committee on Energy hosted hearings on two wind power bills. I got there early and snared one of the last seats. The hearing lasted all day with lots of proponents and opponents on both sides of the issues.

North Haven wind towers Even the environmental community was divided, with the Appalachian Mountain Club supporting the bills – one of which would substantially toughen the standards for scenery for wind tower developments (that’s the bill that drew most of the testimony) – and Sierra Club, Conservation Law Foundation, and Environment Maine opposing the bills.

I hung around all day and finally got to speak at 4:30 pm. Here’s what I had to say, focused on LD 1147 – the bill on scenery.

My Testimony

I am a longtime advocate for wind power and have a great relationship with First Wind and others in the wind industry. I am also proud of the leadership role I’ve played in conservation in Maine, including service on the Forest Legacy Advisory Board, the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund Board, and others. We have protected many of Maine’s best places – and I am very proud of that and the role I played in that accomplishment. I come here today as a conservationist.

And that is the first of the two points I will make today. Landowners have told me that they will be reluctant to participate in conservation projects if by doing so they would be limiting their future opportunities on adjacent lands owned by themselves or their friends and neighbors. I know that the state’s environmental groups are concerned about this, and you should be too. Please be very careful here.

I kind of like the view of this committee, stretched out in a semi-circle in front of me. And if I could see a wind tower outside that window in back of you – perhaps on the Blaine House lawn – it would not ruin my view. But some of the good people behind me might say the wind tower would ruin their view. And probably there are some behind me who don’t like the view of the committee either!

Scenic views are so subjective and personal, aren’t they? I do enjoy seeing wind towers – partly because of what they symbolize. We’ve known for a very long time that our addiction to fossil fuels, especially oil,  is punishing – punishing our pocketbooks, punishing our environment and climate. The potential to be energy independent in Maine is exciting! If we reach that goal, we won’t have to worry that many of us are old – including me – and unable to keep our children here or bring the children of others here to fuel our economy and take care of us.

I feel freedom blowing in the wind. I see energy independence in our wind, water, wood, and oh yea, the sun shines a lot here too. Believe it or not!

As a sportsman, I’ve been subjected, for my entire life, to poorly defined rules and laws that leave all of us who hunt and fish at the whim of individual game wardens who are expected to interpret those laws and rules. Two years ago a fellow in Millinocket was summoned by a game warden for over his limit of smelts. The limit is one quart, and he used a quart plastic bag to hold his smelts, but the warden was using a quart jar and the guy’s smelts didn’t fit into the quart jar. Yes, sometimes a quart is not a quart.

No one should be left to the whim, personal biases, or confusion of law enforcement officers, state agency personnel, or local code enforcement officers. Mount Vernon’s Selectmen are suing our Appeals Board right now because of a disagreement over the interpretation of ordinance language governing the plants that can be planted in a shoreland zone.

I sometimes wonder, if scenic views had been a criteria when they started stringing those ugly wires up and down every Maine road and street, if we would have ever gotten electricity to our homes. What do you think? Certainly, nothing ruins our views more than those electric wires. In fact, DownEast magazine caused a stir last year when they airbrushed those wires out of a cover photo.

Please – don’t subject us to a future of controversial and arbitrary decisions – based on poorly defined standards – that leave us divided and angry – and still depending on fossil fuels.

 

George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website, georgesmithmaine.com, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. George also hosts, with Harry Vanderweide, a TV talk show called Wildfire, now in its 13th year and focused on hunting, fishing, environmental, and conservation issues. The show is owned and produced by Maine Audubon and seen on its website as well as on the Time Warner cable TV station throughout the state.