I wrote this piece that was presented to the Lincoln Town Council by Friends of Lincoln Lakes member and CTFWP member Marge Mitchell, who has been a summer resident of Caribou Pond in Lincoln for 31 years. She is 80 years old and angry as Hell! Thank you for the great effort, Marge!
Good evening. My name is Marge Mitchell and I live on Caribou Pond. I am a concerned Lincoln taxpayer and I am speaking for dozens of my fellow citizens. This month marks two years since the citizens of this town became aware of the proposal by First Wind to impose a sprawling industrial wind site across Rollins Mountain and the ridges of Rocky Dundee. For two years, many concerned citizens have tried to have input into decision making around First Wind’s “Rollins Project”. Every step of the way, the town has attempted to thwart meaningful citizen involvement in a most un-civic process. I come here tonight not to revisit that process, though it surely should be revisited. Instead, I respectfully request that the town consider that much has changed in the last two years and the town should stop any further proceedings regarding the Rollins Project. The Town Council must direct the town administration to refrain from issuing a building permit for this project. The Town Council must direct the town administration to refrain from implementing the TIF negotiated for First Wind.
To allow issuance of a building permit is to condemn the health and well being of many citizens of Lincoln. Of the three industrial wind sites that are located near where people live, all three are out of compliance with state noise limits in the licenses. All three use the same GE 1.5 MW turbines that First Wind proposes to use in the Rollins Project.
At Mars Hill, it is well known that noise has been such a problem that the state granted a variance from 45 dBA to 50 dBA and there are still noise readings that exceed the higher limit. When Dr. Michael Nissenbaum issued his findings in 2010 from his medical study at Mars Hill, he recommended a 7000-foot setback for public health. There has been no remediation by First Wind, so residents of East Ridge Road and Mountain Road must resort to suing First Wind.
Just last week, at Vinalhaven, the State DEP’s own noise consultant, Warren Brown, after analyzing sound studies resulting from complaints, wrote: “there exists a significant body of consistent meteorological and sound data indicating sound levels greater than applicable limits. Substantial changes are recommended for FIW nighttime operations, limiting WTG sound levels at ML-A to 45 dBA.”
Mr. Rand is also on record, when asked in a public forum in May 2010, about the Rollins Project, as stating that due to the way sound is reflected from water surfaces and atmospheric conditions, hundreds of seasonal residents and year round residents on the Lincoln lakes will be adversely affected by noise.
The Lincoln Planning Board, after severely limiting commentary or analysis of the First Wind Rollins Project, proceeded to approve the application. In doing so, the Planning Board approved an industrial use that is prohibited in the R-2 Zone. It is thus violating its own Land Use Ordinance. Affected property owners will immediately meet issuing a building permit based on this violation with a lawsuit.
Regarding the implementation of the TIF agreement with First Wind, the Town Council will be not acting in the best interests of its citizens. The instrument obligates the Town of Lincoln to assist a company that is constantly in severe financial difficulty. Because wind development is not highly regarded by investors, it is only a maze of government supports that keep the industry afloat. A TIF by Lincoln means the town is, in essence, investing in a company that could fail at any time.
A few examples: Last year, Stetson II had been mothballed, a complete work stoppage. Until First Wind received $115 million gift from the taxpayers to bail them out. Back in May, the company filed this with the SEC: “If the company is unable to repay or further extend the maturity of the $79.9 million non-recourse turbine supply loan, it would be in default of this loan, and the lender could accelerate the remaining balance of $53.1 million due in 2011.” This was resolved by borrowing money to stave off the default. It is a company that is living on borrowed time and borrowed money!
Lincoln should not invest in First Wind. Instead, it should heed the warnings contained in the SEC filing for a possible IPO of stock. Taken from its SEC filing, for example: Operating revenue came in at $40.7 million for the first six months of 2010, compared to $20.9 million a year earlier. That is the good news. The bad news: First Wind’s operating loss also doubled on a year-over-year basis during the first half of the year, to $42.6 million from $21.4 million. First Wind also characterized its debt load as “substantial,” reporting that it was carrying $516.9 million in debt as of June 30. Among the company’s loans is a $77.3 million loan that comes with a 17 percent annual interest rate and matures in March 2013. Any astute businessman or investor would be very concerned about figures like these.
Lastly, I encourage everyone to read the “Risk Factors” section of the SEC filing, where there is a litany of risk factors listed, starting with: We depend heavily on federal, state and local government support for renewable energy, especially wind projects. What happens when that goes away? In the current political shift towards reining in the national debt, the heavy subsidies for wind are likely targets for cuts. First Wind has created an LLC and it can simply walk away from the project, leaving behind the destruction of the ridges in Lincoln and 40 rusting, useless industrial machines. You likely do not know the risk factors that are listed there because First Wind has smooth talked, misrepresented, and has withheld information in its local dealings. They cannot get away with that with the SEC because they risk fines and jail time. The truth is there. Lincoln should not invest in this company.
In closing, I implore you to do the right thing and withhold the issuance of a building permit for First Wind, Evergreen III, LLC. Have some scruples as town officials, as representatives of all citizens of Lincoln. Protect the health and well being of all your residents. Ensure that value of everybody’s property is maintained and not diminished. Uphold the R-2 zoning that was put in place so people can enjoy living in peace and quiet away from industrial and commercial impact. Sustain the natural resources that make the Lincoln Lakes region unique. Please, it is not too late to do the right thing and say “No” to First Wind.