DEP promises lengthy hearing for Bowers Mountain wind project

Posted April 22, 2013, at 5:30 p.m.

LEE, Maine — The state’s top environmental agency will set aside at least 16 hours for all participants to speak during a two-day public hearing on a 16-turbine industrial wind site proposed for Bowers Mountain, officials said Monday.

Project intervenors will have two full days of testimony and cross examination followed by night sessions for more public input at Lee Academy on April 30 and May 1, Maine DEP spokeswoman Samantha Warren said.

The public hearing is the first DEP has ever done for a proposed wind project, Warren said.

“We don’t do these sorts of hearing processes that often,” Warren said Monday. “The process is that all the parties involved get a full opportunity to ask questions, present evidence and answer questions as well.

“No one can say that the process isn’t thorough and inclusive, which is important to us,” Warren said.

Officials from Champlain Wind, LLC., a subsidiary of First Wind of Massachusetts, seek to build a 48-megawatt wind site atop Bowers Mountain. It is their second application seeking to build there. The first proposal was denied by the Land Use Regulation Commission in April 2012 in the first significant victory against a wind developer by a Maine anti-wind group since they started fighting projects almost seven years ago.

Opposing intervenors will include registered Maine Master Guide David Corrigan and representatives of the Partnership for the Preservation of the Downeast Lakes Watershed. The Conservation Law Foundation and the Maine Renewable Energy Associates are among the supporting intervenors.

Intervenor status allows those who receive the designation to be a formal party to the process, providing an opportunity for participation beyond what is typically afforded to the public, including the opportunity to present evidence under oath and cross examine other parties.

Absent a lunch hour and some 15-minute breaks, the intervenors will present their cases about the project from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on both days. Public hearings for other interested parties will start at 6 p.m. on both days. The night hearings are open-ended in an effort to hear from all speakers, Warren said.

“We want it to be very transparent and inclusive,” Warren said of the process. “People may not like the ultimate decision but they can be sure that the process is fair.”

Maine Renewable describes itself as “a not-for-profit association of renewable energy producers, suppliers of goods and services to those producers, and other supporters” of the wind industry, according to its website, renewablemaine.org.

Opponents fear the development would have negative scenic and economic effects on the residents and businesses near the project, and that the applicant’s decommissioning plan and financial capacity are deficient, according to documents filed with DEP.

Opponents believe the project would mar the beauty of one of the most precious natural environments in Maine. PPDLW leader Gary Campbell did not immediately return a message seeking comment on Monday.

First Wind spokesman John Lamontagne said the company had reduced by 40 percent the project’s footprint, taking it from 27 to 16 turbines in response to LURC’s denying the first proposal for its scenic effects.

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