Opponents of wind power are no-doubt celebrating the news that Highland Wind LLC has at least temporarily withdrawn its plans for a 39-turbine power plant in the western Maine mountains.

They are not cheering because they love the Roaring Brook mayfly, or are appreciators of the northern bog lemming, two endangered species that would be affected by construction of the plant, according to a Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife study, presented to regulators who were considering building permits.

For the most part, opposition has come from people who don’t want to look at tall white towers and rotating turbines that generate electricity for loading onto transmission lines to supply users far away. But if you support the idea that Maine should diversify its power base and produce power by doing something other than burning imported fuel, this development is nothing to cheer about.

Two questions remain: Does Maine have room for land-based wind energy, and if so, where?

Those were supposed to have been settled by the Governor’s Wind Energy Task Force in the Baldacci administration, which drew up a map directing developers like Highland Wind to areas that met a variety of environmental and market criteria. Through the expedited permitting law passed by the Legislature, investors could expect to find a clear path to approval.

But, at least this time, that hasn’t been the case. If this project is unable to overcome the objections, what is the message to other developers? It’s not that there is a reliable regulatory process in which you can expect to get a building permit if you meet clearly articulated standards. The goal should not be eliminating environmental impacts, but minimizing them.

Highland Wind’s owners are not saying that the plan is dead, however, and perhaps with a few more months of work they can resubmit it with a mitigation plan that would better meet IF&W concerns. Then the permitting process can continue as it began.

But any Mainer concerned about an unfriendly business climate and a propensity for over-regulation should look at this frustrating process and wonder if there is anything to cheer about.


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