National Park Service Superintendent states "Global Warming Irrelevant" in opposing wind farm
Yesterday (9/20/2007), the National Park Service's Appalachian Trail Superintendent Pam Underhill of West Virginia, stated that global warming was "irrelevant" while testifying in opposing to the placement of Maine Mountain Power's proposed 18 wind turbines on Black Nubble Mountain near Sugarloaf Maine. Underhill, who was testifying in her official capacity as a NPS superintendent front of Maine's Land Use Regulation Commission (LURC), said she has fought hard to protect trail for 30 years and considers it her middle child. In her testimony she said didn't want wind turbines located anywhere near what she considers to be a pristine section of the Appalachian Trail because she didn't want hikers to have to see them. Under questioning she acknowledged that global warming was a concern, however, Underhill refused to say whether she would prefer to see the development of renewable energy over the development of more coal fired power plants.
In response to the National Resources Council of Maine's support for the wind farm, which would be three miles from the Appalachian Trail at its closet point, Underhill stated:
"I do not know why the National Resources Council of Maine decided to throw the Appalachian Trail under the bus on this one, but it is not something we will forget any time soon."
In the past, the National Resources Council of Maine had opposed the wind farm, but after negotiations lead Maine Mountain Power to reduce their proposed project from 30 turbines spread over two mountain tops to just 18 turbines on one mountain top, the NRC of Maine threw their support behind the project.
In an interview aired on a Maine Public Broadcasting news report of Maine's Land Use Regulatory Commission's public hearings for the proposed wind farm project Shawn Mahoney, Vice President of Conservation Law Foundation's Maine chapter, said he was stunned to hear Underhill say that global warming was irrelevant when considering this project.
Personally, I'm more than just stunned that Underhill stated global warming is irrelevant, I'm beyond disbelief on so many levels. First I see this as an issue of someone from a distant state forcing her view of the way things should be on another state that is trying to satisfy part of its energy needs in more environmentally sustainable ways. Second, I wonder, what is worse, hikers occasionally seeing wind turbines on a distant mountain peak or hikers not seeing the mountain peak at all because of pollution from coal fired power plants? Maybe she prefers that power plants burning West Virginia coal continue to belch out mercury laden pollution that then rains down and poison the fish in our lakes and streams such that the fish are not safe for hikers to eat? Maybe she prefers to do nothing to try and reduce our contributing to the melting of the polar ice caps and driving species that depend upon those icepacks for survival.
Wind turbines are not appropriate on every mountain top, but they can be an important part of our renewable energy mix and with other renewable energies can help reduce the need for more coal fired power plants. It is Mainers who will see these wind turbines the most and if Mainers are willing to accept some visual blemishes on our horizons to reduce our overall environmental impact, who is Underhill, to interfere. After all, she lives in a state that removes mountains to get to coal (I wonder what that does to their scenic views?). I remember working in the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia along the Appalachian Trail some twenty years ago and not being able to see distant mountains because of pollution. I'd much rather see an occasional wind farm on a distant mountain than not see the mountains at all. I'd prefer not to lose parts of some costal State and National parks here in Maine to rising oceans caused by the melting of polar ice caps. I don't want my grand children or great grand children to never experience the taste of Maine maple syrup because a warming planet did in our sugar maples. Finally, I'd love to be able to have our lakes and streams free of mercury pollution so that I could go fishing with my children and eat the fish we catch.
Related coverage elsewhere
- Maine PBN report of LURC hearing (requires Windows Media Player)
- Wind farm generates political tempest: A federal official's stance on Maine's Black Nubble project is questioned by a California congressman (MaineToday.com)