Friends of Lincoln Lakes renews legal challenge to wind project

By Nick Sambides Jr., BDN Staff
Posted Sept. 29, 2010, at 8:47 p.m.

The Friends of Lincoln Lakes will renew its argument next month that a permit issued to the proposed $130 million Rollins Mountain wind project should be revoked due to claims that another project had exceeded state noise regulations, officials said Tuesday.

The Board of Environmental Protection will hear Friends attorney Lynne Williams’ arguments during a board meeting at the Augusta Civic Center at 8 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 7, said Cynthia Bertocci, the board’s executive analyst.

In a petition filed in mid-September, 17 Friends members seek the revocation or temporary suspension of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection permit issued to Rollins’ developer, First Wind of Massachusetts subsidiary Evergreen Wind Power LLC.

The Friends group, Williams wrote, fears Rollins will have the same alleged violations of state noise regulations found at the three-turbine wind site on the midcoast island of Vinalhaven.

“Given the recent findings regarding noise production by the same make and model of turbines that will be used at Rollins, we believe there is a credible basis for the BEP to revoke or suspend Evergreen’s license under a number of criteria,” Williams wrote in the petition.

Warren L. Brown, the DEP’s wind turbine noise consultant, said that a mid-September analysis at Vinalhaven found “a significant body of consistent meteorological and sound data indicating sound levels greater than applicable limits.”

As proposed by Evergreen, the Rollins project calls for placing 40 General Electric 1.5-megawatt turbines on the Rollins Mountain ridgelines in Burlington, Lee, Lincoln and Winn.

Neighbors to the Vinalhaven site have complained that the turbines have caused many sleepless nights, but the controversy surrounding that project is far from settled.

Fox Island Wind CEO George Baker, whose company operates the turbines, said that his experts dispute the findings of Brown but the dispute may be difficult to resolve.

State law sets a 45-decibel limit. Baker says his experts believe it was ambient noise from wind rustling through trees, not the turbines, that exceeded 45 decibels.

Friends group president Brad Blake acknowledged that the group has lost all of its appeals against Rollins, but believes the Vinalhaven findings have “germane impact on the viability of the project and its effects on the people involved,” he said Tuesday.

The Friends group has protested the project to the Lincoln planning and appeals boards, in state courts including the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, the DEP and BEP and in the project’s host towns.

In its most recent action, group members asked the Lincoln Town Council on Sept. 13 to withhold the town’s permit to the project, citing the Vinalhaven controversy. The council rejected the idea.

The Rollins project is fully permitted. Land clearing for it began more than a week ago. First Wind officials have said they hope turbine construction can start by late fall.

The Friends group claims the project would emit sound and vibrations harmful to wildlife and people, lower land values and disrupt the pastoral nature of Rollins Mountain.

First Wind has argued that its project meets or exceeds all state environmental requirements and that wind turbines have no adverse effect on land values while producing environmentally friendly electricity and significant economic benefits to their host communities.

Rollins is the first in the state contracted to supply Maine utilities with wind power at discount rates.

http://bangordailynews.com/2010/09/29/news/friends-of-lincoln-lakes-renews-legal-challenge-to-wind-project/ printed on July 29, 2014