PORTLAND, Maine — A former Green Independent Party candidate for governor exchanged charges of greed and hypocrisy Wednesday with a former governor who’s promoting a 128-megawatt wind power project in Somerset County.
Building 48 wind turbines in Highland Plantation would require blasting of 1.6 million cubic yards of rock and dirt, decimate fragile alpine terrain and generate visual and noise pollution all while failing to reduce greenhouse emissions, said Jonathan Carter, director of the Forest Ecology Network.
Former independent Maine Gov. Angus King, one of the Highland Wind LLC business partners, said the project carries an environmental impact but that it’s more benign than oil, gas, coal or nuclear power. It would create enough clean energy for about 54,000 homes, or all the homes in Franklin, Piscataquis and Somerset counties.
King also took a jab at his former political foe in the 1994 gubernatorial race, saying the environmentally minded Carter was supportive of wind power until a project was proposed near his home.
Carter, who lives about 3.5 miles from the turbines, responded by calling King a “mountain-slayer and a profiteer.” He said he’s not against wind power, but he’s against large projects that destroy mountaintops: “Industrial mountaintop wind, wherever you put it, is a disaster.”
The war of words began with a news conference at Portland City Hall by the Friends of Highland Mountains, which has created a DVD outlining its opposition.
Carter described the construction of wind turbines on mountain ridges as “Maine’s version of mountaintop removal.” And he said there would be no reduction in greenhouse gases because carbon-emitting power plants would have to be kept running and on standby for times when the wind isn’t blowing.
Furthermore, he said the turbine towers with blinking lights would be built in the face of the Bigelow Preserve and could be seen by hikers on the Appalachian Trail.
“I’ll buy him a bus ticket to West Virginia, where they’re tearing mountains to the ground to feed our fossil fuel addiction,” King retorted. He said there would be a “1-to-1” reduction in greenhouse gases because existing plants would be throttled back whenever the turbines are in operation.
He said the remoteness of the site is part of its appeal. He said there are only two vacation homes a half-mile from the turbines and that other homes are at least a mile away, reducing the impact.
Maine is the leader in New England when it comes to wind power, with 432 megawatts of wind power either in operations or under construction. Large projects already in operation include TransCanada’s Kibby Mountain, First Wind’s Mars Hill, and First Wind’s Stetson I and Stetson II.
Central Maine Power is beginning a five-year upgrade of the power grid to make it more reliable and to increase capacity for future wind power projects.