In our lawsuit against Central Maine Power Co., Friends of Merrymeeting Bay (FOMB) presents a sufficiency of evidence demonstrating that in this situation, where tower lights are not required or needed given the absence of air traffic and distance from closest qualifying airport (Wiscasset), that lighting, and especially radar, pose unnecessary risks to wildlife and people rising to the levels of private and public nuisance.

The Chops towers have been unlit for 80 years without incident and the power lines themselves unmarked. Now, simply by virtue of their increased size, darker color and marking balls, the towers and lines are more obvious than ever while air traffic is at a historical low.

FOMB has suggested a number of less impactful and less costly alternatives to CMP from simply turning the lights off to pilot controlled lighting and or passive aircraft detection and all have been rejected. CMP’s purported concerns about aircraft safety ring hollow given the actual site history, tower presence on navigation charts and regulations requiring a minimum safe altitude for airplanes in this area of 1,000 feet above and 2,000 feet horizontal clearance from the highest point on the surface. The risk of aircraft incident is virtually zero.

On the other hand, the world’s major insurance companies like Lloyd’s of London and the Swiss Reinsurance Group have placed electromagnetic radiation of the type CMP’s radar will needlessly saturate thousands of square miles with, in their highest risk category and will not provide coverage for any injuries from it. At minimum, the World Health Organization/ International Agency for Research on Cancer (WHO/IARC) classifies this radiation as a possible human carcinogen. That was 2011. More recently the National Toxicology Program and Ramazzini Institute studies, considered “gold standard,” found clear evidence of certain cancers from whole body exposures to low level radiofrequency radiation. These exposures were not 24/7 as CMP plans for their radar.

While the risk of tower or wire collision is next to zero, the risks from light pollution and radiating a large area; exposing hundreds of thousands of healthy and health-compromised women, men and children along with our precious birds, bees, bats and other Merrymeeting Bay wildlife are, based on possible severity of consequence, numbers exposed and duration, quite high.

The FCC’s radiofrequency radiation exposure guidelines are laughably obsolete and irrelevant at 24 years old, based on data from the 1950s and only protective of thermal injury in healthy individuals (tested on military recruits. The agency, continuously chaired by industry executives has been written up as the classic “captured agency.” They don’t have our backs. And they are being sued over this by two major organizations, the Environmental Health Trust and Robert Kennedy’s Children’s Health Defense.

CMP’s spurning of community and environmental concerns, as well as low cost alternatives, leads one to conclude from their intransigence, they are only in this for the money. We shouldn’t be surprised. Utilities in Maine receive an essentially guaranteed rate of return on equity of 10-14%, paid for through rate increases. The bigger the project and the more bells and whistles, the more they like it (radar estimated to be a $500,000 add-on to a $10 million project). This fiasco at Merrymeeting Bay is another glaring example of Mainers being hurt by CMP and being charged for it at the same time.

Ed Friedman lives in Bowdoinham and is the chairperson of Friends of Merrymeeting Bay.

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