Representative Mollohan's Letter to the Public Service Commission of West Virginia
WV's Congressman Mollohan submitted a letter on July 26, 2006 to the WV Public Service Commission (PSC) concerning the Beech Ridge wind energy project proposed for Greenbrier County, WV by Chicago-based Invenergy, Inc. This wind energy developer successfully pushed through a windplant in Wisconsin nearby the Horicon Marsh - a globally-significant wildlife area and National Wildlife Refuge - despite the widespread outcry by national and local wildlife groups who opposed such close siting.
Mollohan's letter points out that Invenergy disregarded recommendations by the US Fish and Wildlife Service for multi-year pre-construction studies regarding the project's potential impacts on migratory birds and bats. He also observed that although WV's one operating wind project in Tucker County has been the site of record-setting bat mortality due to collision with turbine blades, the project operator (FPL Energy) has cut off access to the site for scientific study or investigation, even by the National Research Council/National Academies committee charged by the U.S. Congress to study the environmental impacts of wind projects in the Mid-Atlantic Highlands (see footnote #2 in his letter).
Sandra Squire, Executive Secretary
Public Service Commission of
P.O. Box 812
201 Brooks Street
Charleston, WV 25323-0812
Re: Case No. 05-1590-E-CS
Beech Ridge Energy LLC
Dear Madam Secretary:
I am submitting the following comments for the public record of this case, and I request that the Commission consider them in deciding whether to grant the siting certificate sought by Beech Ridge Energy LLC. Beech Ridge is an entity that is ultimately owned by a Chicago-based company, Invenergy Investment Company LLC, and the siting certificate that is being sought is for an industrial wind-energy facility on mountain ridgelines in Greenbrier County.
My interest in this case sterns from the fact that the issues raised here are very much statewide in nature. The Commission previously approved three wind-turbine projects in my Congressional District. One of those, the Mountaineer project, has been built and is operating, and it appears that absent some change in government policy, the other two, in the Mount Storm area, will be built in the near future. It is evident that wind-energy developers have targeted this state, and that if they are allowed to have their way, thousands of industrial wind turbines will be erected across the mountain ridges of West Virginia. In all likelihood the Commission’s decision in this case will play an important role in determining how many additional wind-turbine applications will be submitted in the future, and how those applications will be decided.
I have referred to the past Commission wind-power decisions, and I must also note how much has changed since April 2003, when the Commission last considered an application for a wind-turbine project on its merits. To begin with, we now know much more about the serious damage that wind-turbine projects can cause to wildlife and to the environment generally. Indeed, at the time the Commission decided the Nedpower Mount Storm application, the lethal effect that: wind turbines erected on mountain ridges have upon bats was virtually unknown.
Moreover, we -and by “we", I mean government officials, environmental experts, industry officials, and the public generally -have also come to have some idea of how much we don’t yet know about the environmental impacts of these massive projects. This point was amply made by the report on wildlife impacts of wind energy that the U.S. Government Accountability Office issued last September, which sets out (on pp. 15-20) numerous critical "research gaps” in this area.
A number of efforts are underway to fill in the ”gaps” in our knowledge in this critical area, so that decisions on proposed wind-turbine projects can be made with reasonably complete knowledge of the projects’ environmental consequences. One of those efforts is the study that is now being conducted by a committee of the National Academy of Sciences. The committee held a hearing in Charleston last December,’ and it is scheduled to issue its report in December of this year. There is also required environmental information must be obtained on a site- specific basis, and this is a matter I will be addressing in my comments.
Yet another change over the past few years is evidenced by the massive public protest against both this proposed project and the project that had been proposed for Jack Mountain. This outpouring of opposition demonstrates that the public is now far more sensitive to the environmental consequences of these projects, and particularly the significant harm that they cause to scenic mountain views. When the Mountaineer facility was built in 2002, the people of this state were given some taste of the visual impact of a wind-turbine project, and it is probably safe to say that if the massive, Commission-approved Mount Storm projects had'been built as planned in 2003-2004, the protests against this project and the proposed Jack Mountain project would have been even more vociferous.
I am aware that the Commission has received extensive testimony and exhibits from the parties to this case, and that the Commission is statutorily obligated to make a decision on the application not later than August 2Gth. In these circumstances, I will limit my comments to two basic points:
First, Beech Ridge has entirely disregarded the determinations made by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service -the federal agency responsible for administering and enforcing both the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Endangered Species Act -on the pre-construction studies that should be done regarding the impact that the project would have on migratory birds and on bats. This conduct in itself warrants denying the application at this time.
Second, focusing solely on the project's impacts upon the State of West Virginia and its people, the clear likelihood is that its negative impacts, particularly the visual impacts on our mountains, would -far outweigh any positive impacts that the project would have for our state.......................