July 7, 2010

Wind project opponents arrested outside Kibby Mountain site

More turbines planned for area

By Leslie Bridgers lbridgers@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

KIBBY TOWNSHIP -- Four activists, including one who chained herself by the neck to a tractor-trailer, were arrested Tuesday during a protest of the Kibby Mountain wind-power project, according to the Franklin County Sheriff's Department.

About 60 protesters tried to block an access road to the site of the TransCanada wind-power project, in order to prevent wind-turbine parts from being delivered.

The demonstration came on the heels of a week-long gathering of hundreds of environmental activists behind the Earth First! movement. It preceded a meeting of the Land Use Regulation Commission, which is scheduled to deliberate today on a proposal to build 15 wind turbines on a ridge north of Sisk Mountain.

Franklin County Chief Deputy Raymond Meldrum said protesters Tuesday were arrested both at the access road and about a mile away on Route 27, where one protester locked herself by the neck to a truck carrying a turbine blade. The activists were charged with failure to disperse and brought to Franklin County Jail, where their bail was set at $500 each. They had not been released as of 6 p.m. Tuesday.

In addition to the sheriff's department, Maine State Police and border patrol officers were stationed by the access road Tuesday. In the morning, they issued several trespass notices to protesters who were wandering around the site of the wind-power project, which is on property owned by Plum Creek Timber Co. and leased by TransCanada, according to Lt. Don Pomelow of the Maine State Police.

"We'll keep a presence here as long as they're here," Pomelow said Tuesday morning.

Nathan Brimmer of Greene, who received a no-trespass warning from police, said he believed the law-enforcement officers at the site represented "an absurd use of taxpayer dollars."

Earth First! activists are known for their use of civil disobedience. The last time the group's annual gathering, called the Round River Rendezvous, was held in Maine, six protesters were arrested in the backyard of the Blaine House, where they had strewn oil and lobster shells in protest of liquefied natural gas terminals.

The crux of the activists' argument against the wind-power project is the number, size and location of the turbines on Kibby Mountain, according to Logan Perkins of Eddington. Perkins said the activists believe the project will have a detrimental effect on mountain ecosystems, including a lynx habitat.

"We're here to say No to industrial wind," Perkins said.

Leanne LeBlanc, a spokeswoman for TransCanada, said the activists were not successful in preventing the turbine parts from reaching their destination.

"It took a little extra time, but everything was delivered on schedule," she said.

Karen Pickett, who traveled from California to attend the Earth First! gathering, said she toured the site of the wind turbines on Thursday.

"I've never seen anything on this scale, and that's clearly the problem," she said.

There are 22 wind turbines up and running on Kibby Mountain. The parts being shipped to the site Tuesday were for an additional 22 turbines that have already been approved by the Land Use Regulation Commission. Today, the commission is discussing a 15-turbine project proposed by TransCanada for adjacent Sisk Mountain.

"I wouldn't be surprised if there were people who made an appearance there," Perkins said.

Commission director Catherine Carroll said the commissioners today will consider the project's impact on the area's natural resources, including the plants, animals, soil and scenery. At the end of the meeting, she said, the commission will direct staff to write up an official approval or denial of the proposal, but won't take a vote.

"I think the writing will be on the wall at the end of the day," she said.

At a meeting on Aug. 4, when the commission will vote on the project, LURC is scheduled to discuss a request from TransCanada for a zone change to allow more turbines on the mountain, Carroll said.

Both meetings will be held at the Spectacular Event Center in Bangor and will begin at 9:30 a.m.

Leslie Bridgers -- 861-9252


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