- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 7, 2009

HAGERSTOWN | U.S. Cellular Corp. has filed an objection to fast-track approval for a proposed Western Maryland wind-power project, citing potential interference with cell phone calls and emergency communications.

But an official of developer US Wind Force LLC said Friday that he expects the issue to be resolved before a state Public Service Commission hearing Wednesday.

In a filing Thursday with the commission, Chicago-based U.S. Cellular said three of the 29 wind turbines US Wind Force plans to build atop Dan’s Mountain in Allegany County would block transmission of microwave signals from nearby U.S. Cellular antenna towers.

“If the wind turbines are constructed at the presently proposed locations, [U.S. Cellular] will have to relocate its Dan’s Mountain microwave facilities at very considerable expense,” the filing states.

It asks the commission not to grant US Wind Force, of Wexford, Pa., an exemption from the lengthy regulatory review process for a permit, called a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity. A 2007 state law allows wind-power projects of less than 70 megawatts to obtain such exemptions.

U.S. Cellular said only a “full inquiry” can protect the company and its customers from substantial interference with cell phone calls, 911 calls and emergency communications.

US Wind Force Vice President David Friend dismissed the filing as legal posturing. He said the companies have been negotiating for months, and “I don’t think we’ll have any contention by the time Wednesday comes along.”

Wind-power developers sought the streamlined permit process to avoid challenges that they claimed were stifling construction of wind farms in the state. Two Western Maryland Republicans - state Sen. George Edwards of Allegany and Delegate Wendell Beitzel of Garrett are seeking to repeal the exemption law, which critics say cut out public participation.

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