Seven hundred Maryland residents showed up at hearings at the state capitol and in western Maryland to protest an industrial wind farm proposal they say would despoil the region’s mountaintops.
The proposed wind farm, which would be operated by an out-of-state company, would sit on 400 acres of currently undeveloped wilderness.
The controversial proposed development, just east of Cumberland near the narrow neck of the Maryland panhandle, would transform a pristine landscape of forests, lakes, and scenic mountain vistas into a site for electrical power generation with a web of transmission lines cutting through the wilderness.
“My forefathers enjoyed the mountain views, and so have I,” lifelong Garrett County resident Carl Lee told members of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources at a January 30 hearing in the western Maryland town of McHenry, according to the February 1 Salisbury Daily Times. “They ought to be preserved for my children and their children to continue to be enjoyed.”
Fearing a wave of more industrial wind farms once big wind companies get their foot in the door, Lee asked, “If we allow this to happen, who knows where it’s going to end? This is only the beginning.”
Also at the McHenry hearing, Charlie Ross, president and CEO of the Garrett County Chamber of Commerce, said industrial wind farms would hurt tourism and the regional economy, in addition to causing environmental degradation, according to the Daily Times report.
Following the hearings, Garrett County commissioners voted unanimously to oppose any use of public land for wind power projects.
“Very little input was sought from the county regarding this proposal to put wind turbines on state land,” explained County Commissioner Lamont Pagenhardt. “We had very little information regarding the issue.
“As the commissioners began getting more information, we recommended that public hearings be allowed,” Pagenhardt added. “At the public hearings, it was clear there was tremendous opposition to the wind turbines. That land belongs to the people for recreation, hiking, scenic sightseeing, and other traditional uses. It should not be given to power companies.”
Beautiful Scenery at Risk
A map of wind power potential provided by the U.S. Energy Information Administration shows western Maryland is better suited than most places in the United States for wind energy production. However, the western Maryland controversy is typical of wind power production nationwide, as many of the few places where wind power is close to being economically feasible are scenic mountaintop ridges or beautiful near-shore seascapes.
John Dale Dunn, M.D., J.D. ([email protected]) is an emergency medicine faculty member at Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center, Fort Hood, Texas and a policy advisory for The Heartland Institute and the American Council on Science and Health.