Give Harley Lee credit. He’s been persistent in his attempts to build wind turbines in the Redington Pond Range and on Black Nubble Mountain, returning this year with a plan to have his mountaintops annexed by adjoining Carrabassett Valley and his project revived.

A public hearing on the annexation was held in Augusta last week, during which opponents of his project derided the notion as an “end run” around jurisdiction of the Maine Land Use Regulation Commission, which has twice rejected his proposals, in two separate forms.

Proponents of Lee’s development are right, however, when saying this annexation is not an end run, as the real end run would have been a drawn-out legal battle between his company, Endless Energy Corp. and against the rulings of LURC. This proposal is simply another twist in Maine’s wind energy saga.

We think the Legislature shouldn’t stand in the way of the annexation, if the voters of Carrabassett Valley desire to have it within its borders. The problem with this process is that lawmakers don’t know what valley voters think; their approval is the last link in this annexing chain, instead of the first. That doesn’t make any sense.

Then again, not much has made sense in how Endless Energy’s proposals have been reviewed and scrutinized for several years. As the first prospector in Maine’s wind rush – Lee first measured wind speeds on Sugarloaf Mountain in 1989 – the company has suffered as a trailblazer.

Its case prompted a wholesale review of Maine’s wind permitting process, which ended with a broad swath of the state designated as expedited review sites. Then, unsurprisingly, Endless Energy’s small portion of Maine was omitted from having this plum status, which led to this annexation proposal.

The plan has some strong opponents. Environmental and scenic advocates made powerful arguments against the plan in the past, and their points are still well-regarded. The environmental and scenic concerns about his turbines don’t disappear with time. Lee has insisted on provoking them by returning to his original two-mountain plan, though, and deserves to hear the opposition.

But he deserves one more shot, too. Since his last go-round with LURC, the state’s western peaks have been flooded with turbine constructions, a new administration has swept into the White House with alternative energy on the brain and billions of dollars of transmission projects are on the table.

Maine has wind energy designs both on land and sea. Another company, GridSolar is vowing to create cheap solar energy if it can be funded. The governor and premier of New Brunswick have shaken hands to make the Pine Tree State an international energy corridor to transport energy across the Northeast.

Lee isn’t the trailblazer anymore, just one more wind project in the mix. Does it now fit? And Annexation doesn’t worry us as a precedent, because its approval wouldn’t be binding. The Legislature is not a court of law, but it can pass judgment on Harley Lee.

Our verdict? Give him one more chance.


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