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Great Questions...

This ruling also puts the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, an agency whose mission includes the protection of endangered species, in an awkward position. Current Maryland law exempts any industrial wind plant project from a comprehensive environmental review process if its generating capacity is limited to 70MW or less. This exemption was passed two years ago after being pushed by Wayne Rogers, a well-connected entrepreneur who has been a generous donor to Democratic campaigns across the state and the country, is a former state Democratic Party chairman, served as chairman of Governor O'Malley's Energy Transition Team, and just happens to be president of Synergics LLC, the company that will build one of the two approved projects in Garrett County.

The controversy surrounding wind turbines took an interesting turn last week when, in a 76-page ruling, federal judge Roger Titus (who happens to be a part-time resident of Garrett County) declared that a 122-turbine facility being built along 23 miles of mountain ridges in Greenbrier County, W.Va., would violate the federal Endangered Species Act by killing legally protected Indiana bats. Titus ruled that 40 turbines now under construction can be completed, but no more could be erected until the developer obtains an "incidental take" permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. These permits actually allow projects to kill endangered species, but in order to get them, applicants must agree to take steps to minimize and mitigate the harm their activities will do to the protected animals.

A subsequent editorial in the Baltimore Sun questioned whether or not the ruling would prompt wind opponents to raise similar objections about projects planned in Garrett and Allegany counties. The opinion rendered by Titus included a map that shows the endangered bats have also been found in Garrett County. Construction on four wind projects in Maryland, two of which will be located atop Backbone Mountain in Garrett County, is supposed to get under way this coming spring, thanks to a recent ruling by the Public Service Commission that seemingly cleared the way for construction of... [truncated due to possible copyright]  

The controversy surrounding wind turbines took an interesting turn last week when, in a 76-page ruling, federal judge Roger Titus (who happens to be a part-time resident of Garrett County) declared that a 122-turbine facility being built along 23 miles of mountain ridges in Greenbrier County, W.Va., would violate the federal Endangered Species Act by killing legally protected Indiana bats. Titus ruled that 40 turbines now under construction can be completed, but no more could be erected until the developer obtains an "incidental take" permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. These permits actually allow projects to kill endangered species, but in order to get them, applicants must agree to take steps to minimize and mitigate the harm their activities will do to the protected animals.

A subsequent editorial in the Baltimore Sun questioned whether or not the ruling would prompt wind opponents to raise similar objections about projects planned in Garrett and Allegany counties. The opinion rendered by Titus included a map that shows the endangered bats have also been found in Garrett County. Construction on four wind projects in Maryland, two of which will be located atop Backbone Mountain in Garrett County, is supposed to get under way this coming spring, thanks to a recent ruling by the Public Service Commission that seemingly cleared the way for construction of the projects.

This ruling also puts the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, an agency whose mission includes the protection of endangered species, in an awkward position. Current Maryland law exempts any industrial wind plant project from a comprehensive environmental review process if its generating capacity is limited to 70MW or less. This exemption was passed two years ago after being pushed by Wayne Rogers, a well-connected entrepreneur who has been a generous donor to Democratic campaigns across the state and the country, is a former state Democratic Party chairman, served as chairman of Governor O'Malley's Energy Transition Team, and just happens to be president of Synergics LLC, the company that will build one of the two approved projects in Garrett County. (Could there possibly be a conflict of interest here?)

When Rogers/Synergics submitted their original application to build a facility in Garrett County, the DNR submitted extensive comments that the turbines would threaten the mourning warbler, which is also on the Endangered Species list. The DNR also opposed the aforementioned legislation, to no avail. However, after its passage and enactment, and Rogers' subsequent filing for an exemption for the Garrett County project, the DNR was strangely silent, and submitted no concerns whatsoever about the mourning warbler or any other species.

So now Judge Titus's ruling adds the Indiana bat to the list. Will the DNR continue to remain silent?

Former Maryland state senator John Bambacus, an ardent opponent of wind turbines being placed in Garrett County, has via a personal letter directly challenged DNR secretary John Griffin on this matter.

"Does the DNR agree that it no longer has any role to play in protecting threatened and endangered species as these might be affected by the installation and operation of 70MW or smaller wind projects?... even if the wind energy project might result in harm to species listed by DNR as endangered and thus heretofore protected under the state's Nongame and Endangered Species Conservation Act?"

Great questions. We anxiously await your response, Mr. Secretary.


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DEC 17 2009
http://www.windaction.org/posts/23684-great-questions
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