Friday, February 02, 2007

Despite Redington vote, wind power needed

Maine Today
February 1, 2007

Norm Anderson

Over the years, we have become accustomed to the use of the term "watershed moment" to describe pivotal times in our history.

We want to be sure that last week's decision by the Land Use Regulation Commission to deny the Redington Wind Project is not an "airshed moment" that stops wind-power development in its infancy.

In consideration of the increasing danger of air pollution, our continued dependence on fossil fuel and the unmistakable effects of global warming, Maine must move rapidly forward to encourage significant expansion of wind power.

The American Lung Association of Maine was an early and ardent supporter of the Redington project. Despite that, we respect the LURC decision based on the criteria they must use.


We observed and participated in many of the LURC hearings at Sugarloaf this past summer and are sensitive to the concerns expressed in opposition to the proposal.

Many in the western mountains have adopted lifestyles that should be energy conservation models not only for the rest of Maine, but also for the rest of the country.

This illustrates the complexity of the problem we are facing, and, if truth be told, the injustice. Our quarrel is not with those who value the exquisite beauty of our mountain ridges, or who value the fragile ecology of alpine peaks. It is not with the Audubon Society or the Appalachian Mountain Club.

In fact, we are grateful to the great efforts of the AMC for its role in helping to better define the impacts of air pollution on people who enjoy the outdoors in this unique area.

Our quarrel is with the current condition in which we find ourselves. We have an increasingly narrow timeline in which to reverse our course.

In fact, some have stated that it may already be too late. We are losing islands in the South Pacific because of rising sea levels. The Arctic tundra is thawing. Even a cursory review of CNN will confirm that severe weather events are increasingly dominating our news coverage.

The association's particular concern -- rising air-pollution levels and the increasing probability of emerging infectious diseases -- is just one of the societal challenges we will have to confront.

Maine is replete with renewable sources of energy, including water, lumber, wind and solar. Even with these resources, however, almost 70 percent of the energy we consume is from fossil fuels. Natural gas alone accounts for over 50 percent of our electricity production.

Burning fossil fuels to support our energy and transportation systems produces greenhouse gases and air pollution. The result is global warming and ever-growing risks of lung disease.

Wind power is one of the remedies. Our study in partnership with Coastal Enterprise Institute and the Jebediah Foundation shows that small-scale community windmills are not a realistic option for significant power production at this time.

As a result, multiple large-scale projects are absolutely essential. We are most certainly running out of time and options to reverse the current trend toward an environmental and public health catastrophe.

While LURC's decision to disapprove Redington removes one wind project from the list of possibilities, commission members were careful to note that this action should not be misinterpreted as a vote against wind power elsewhere.


We take them at their word. With several new high-quality proposals in the pipeline, they will soon be able to demonstrate their support for wind power.

LURC's approval of a large-scale wind project will be a powerful precedent to forge a new path to energy independence, healthy air and healthy lungs.

This is not a choice among reducing our excessive energy consumption, mandating energy efficiency standards and promoting clean renewable energy sources.

The current situation demands we aggressively move forward on all these fronts. Determining the kind of world we are giving to our children and grandchildren is really at the core of this issue. We hope our legacy will be one where the very air we breathe is not dangerous to our health.

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