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Wind farms still face opposition on bird issue

A group that wants to slow the rush of wind turbines to the Texas Coast is asking the Federal Aviation Administration to require environmental studies for Texas wind farms. The Coastal Habitat Alliance has filed a petition with the FAA asking for the change in policy. This is the latest in a series of attempts the group has made to fight the emergence of wind farms on the coast, which is a major migratory bird route. The alliance worries about the impact thousands of wind turbines could have on the bird population.

A group that wants to slow the rush of wind turbines to the Texas Coast is asking the Federal Aviation Administration to require environmental studies for Texas wind farms.

The Coastal Habitat Alliance has filed a petition with the FAA asking for the change in policy. This is the latest in a series of attempts the group has made to fight the emergence of wind farms on the coast, which is a major migratory bird route. The alliance worries about the impact thousands of wind turbines could have on the bird population.

The group has already failed to force either the state or federal government to require environmental reviews of wind projects in federal court, the Public Utility Commission and in the state's administrative court. But noted Houston environmental attorney Jim Blackburn said the group has no plans to quit.

"Sooner or later, hopefully the state of Texas will do the right thing and regulate these wind farms," he said.

Texas leads the nation in wind power production. Most of the state's wind farms are in West Texas and were built without environmental controversy. That changed last year when two wind farms were proposed for Kenedy County on the state's more... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

A group that wants to slow the rush of wind turbines to the Texas Coast is asking the Federal Aviation Administration to require environmental studies for Texas wind farms.

The Coastal Habitat Alliance has filed a petition with the FAA asking for the change in policy. This is the latest in a series of attempts the group has made to fight the emergence of wind farms on the coast, which is a major migratory bird route. The alliance worries about the impact thousands of wind turbines could have on the bird population.

The group has already failed to force either the state or federal government to require environmental reviews of wind projects in federal court, the Public Utility Commission and in the state's administrative court. But noted Houston environmental attorney Jim Blackburn said the group has no plans to quit.

"Sooner or later, hopefully the state of Texas will do the right thing and regulate these wind farms," he said.

Texas leads the nation in wind power production. Most of the state's wind farms are in West Texas and were built without environmental controversy. That changed last year when two wind farms were proposed for Kenedy County on the state's more environmentally sensitive coastline. There are now four wind farms either under construction or in the planning stages for the coast, Blackburn said.

Wind turbines typically don't kill many birds, but conservation organizations worry that, when the right weather hits, mass kills could be possible on the coast because of the large number of birds that use the area as a flyway.

The FAA reviewed 13,000 turbine applications in 2007 and more than 15,000 nationally this year, according to the petition. These reviews are performed to ensure the structures don't pose a danger to aircraft, but the federal agency does not require environmental studies. Blackburn contends that the FAA is avoiding its responsibilities under the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act.

Laurie Jodziewicz of the American Wind Energy Association questions whether the environmental laws should apply to the FAA's review.

"It's not a regulatory proceeding. It's simply a determination from FAA," she said. "I have not heard of this angle used before."

The legal strategy is reminiscent of that used by the American Bird Conservancy, which is part of the Coastal Habitat Alliance, to force the Federal Communications Commission to study the effect that lights on communication towers were having on birds, said the conservancy's Michael Fry.

The petition only covers Texas wind farms, but Fry believes it could set precedent for others.


Source: http://www.mysanantonio.com...

DEC 12 2008
http://www.windaction.org/posts/18222-wind-farms-still-face-opposition-on-bird-issue
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