Hearing draws mixed reaction on TransCanada’s wind power petition

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CARRABASSETT VALLEY – TransCanada’s petition to add 156 acres to the state’s accelerated, wind power development permitting process drew mixed reaction during a public hearing Wednesday.

TransCanada Maine Wind Development Inc., a subsidiary of Canadian-based energy, TransCanada Corp., initially submitted a petition to add 631 acres to the state’s approved fast-track permitting area. However, TransCanada submitted a revised petition on March 10 with the smaller acreage and excluding the southern peak of Sisk Mountain in Chain of Ponds Township.

The company proposes to add 15 turbines to the 44 already permitted in 2008 for the Kibby Wind Power Project in northern Franklin County. It has enough property in the state’s approved expedited permitting area to fit all of the 15 turbines, but company representative Terry Bennett said it would be a tight fit.

Sections of Mount Pisgah and the peak of Sisk Mountain will screen views of the turbines from most areas in the Chain of Ponds, Jean Vissering, a visual assessment expert for TransCanada, testified at the rule-making hearing.

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TransCanada is the first to ask the state to add land, not already in an approved area, to the fast-track process for a wind development permit. The state established the expedited permitting area for wind energy development in 2008.

Eustis Selectman Jay Wyman testified for company’s request and presented the commission with a petition with nearly 100 signatures. He said the approved project has benefited the town, rejuvenating businesses throught the influx of people connected to the project spending money. The $100,000 to $200,000 the company plans to give to the town annually would offset property taxes, Wyman said.

Jody Jones, a wildlife ecologist with Maine Audubon Society, said that group would oppose TransCanada’s petition because it would not meet all of the goals of LURC’s Land Use Comprehensive Plan.

Dylan Voorhees, clean energy director for the Natural Resource Council of Maine, said the conservation group supports the state’s goals to develop 2,000 megawatts of wind power by 2015 to reduce dependence on fossil fuels.

The council “recognizes the balance that must be struck between producing clean energy and protecting mountain and scenic resources. In our final analysis we find part of this project achieves that balance, and part of it does not,” Voorhees said.

In a joint press release, the Maine Audubon Society, the Natural Resources Council of Maine and the Appalachian Mountain Club said  they would support the most northern portion of the proposed expansion for eight turbines, but not the location of the seven turbines proposed for the most southern portion. They said it would harm subalpine habitat and threaten wildlife and scenic and recreational resources.

The Maine Land Use Regulation Commission agreed to expand the written comment period from the end of March to the end of April to allow people to respond to the revised petition. After that, there will be seven days to accept rebuttal.

dperry@sunjournal.com

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