Cumberland Times-News

Local News

March 20, 2013

Public vocal at Fourmile hearing

MCHENRY — The public voiced  concerns at the Maryland Public Service Commission hearing at Garrett College on Tuesday, in regard to Fourmile Wind Energy LLC’s request for an exemption from a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity.

The exemption would put the proposed Fourmile Wind project on the fast track for PSC approval with construction slated for spring.

The $100 million Fourmile Ridge project, which is being developed by Synergics Wind Energy LLC, will have the capacity of 60 megawatts, according to Matt Brewer, a partner for Bennet Brewerand Associates of Frostburg, the engineer of record for the project.

A law was passed that exempts wind projects under 70 megawatts from environmental review, according to Ajax Eastman of Baltimore, a representative of the Maryland Conservation Council.

The CPCN was initially a trigger mechanism for the state to be able to have oversight for power-generating projects, according to county resident Eric Robison.

The exemption takes away the Department of Natural Resources’ heritage and all the other organizations’ input into the process, said Robison.

“Having that taken away takes a county like Garrett County, which doesn’t have comprehensive zoning, and puts us at the risk of Synergics,” said Robison.  

Andrew Gohn, clean energy program manager with the Maryland Energy Administration, said that, despite the fact that the county doesn’t have comprehensive zoning, the project would be still subjected to federal regulations.

Those standards and regulations would include the Migratory Bird Treaty, Endangered Species, National Environmental Policy and Clean Water acts, according to Gohn.

“We are very excited about the potential for land-based wind development in the state,” said Gohn. “We view this project as very much supporting our renewable energy goals in the state.”  

Robison suggested that the PSC not accept the CPCN exemption request.

“I don’t want something coming in here that is going to impact our community and our lives without having any type of oversight,” said Robison.  

Jeff Conner of Avilton echoed Robison’s sentiments regarding the CPCN exemption. “I think we need a environmental review,” he said.

A major portion — 75 percent — of the proposed project in eastern Garrett County is in the state’s designated “sensitive areas” as having rare, threatened and endangered species, Jim Torrington, chief of the Garrett County Permits and Inspections Division said during a commission meeting. 

Brewer indicated that the project was adjacent to those “sensitive areas.”

“We have been fully cognizant about that through the design process. We have very deliberately avoided impact to those areas,” said Brewer.

“We have completed numerous environmental studies and testing over the last three years and have incorporated those studies into the design,” said Brewer.

A non-tidal wetland and water delineation of the entire project boundary was conducted, according to Brewer.

“This project will result in zero wetland impact,” said Brewer.

“We have completed a noise study and shadow flicker study for the current alignments as they would be built to ensure the health, safety and welfare of the adjoining property owners.”

The project will cross several streams and one crossing will require a bridge, according to Conner.

“I thought I heard there was zero wetland impact. As soon as you cross a stream that’s an impact to me,” said Conner.

The project would adversely affect the headwaters of the Savage River by soil erosion and runoff, according to Eastman.  

“The Fourmile Ridge project would create enormous impacts on a particularly sensitive area,” said Eastman. “We feel that it is incumbent upon the Public Service Commission to deny Synergics’ request  for an exemption to to the CPCN permit. Especially, because this project is in a particularly vulnerable, valuable ecological niche and would produce a meaningless amount of carbon dioxide free electricity to meet Maryland’s energy demand.”

In Garrett County, Synergics developed the Roth Rock project on Backbone Mountain, which began operation in 2011. That project contains 20 wind turbines at the tune of $110 million, according to Brewer.

“The Roth Rock project has many similarities to the Fourmile Ridge project,” said Brewer.

Conner said that the Roth Rock project had violations with the Maryland Department of Environment.

“Synergics has already shown in the past that they will violate MDE and not get the proper permits,” said Conner.

Gohn said the MDE ensures that sediment and erosion controls are in place.

Some members of the public also commented on Synergics and Fourmile Wind Energy’s request to waive the CPCN requirements for a tap loop line to serve the project.

The less than 300 feet loop line will connect to Potomac Edison transmission facilities.

“I say they (Synergics) has already asked for enough — make them bury that line,” said Conner.

Contact Elaine Blaisdell at eblaisdell@times-news.com.

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