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Environmentalists protesting Constellation’s Western Md. wind farm

Save Western Maryland and the Maryland Conservation Council gave Constellation notice June 23 that they plan to attempt to block its Criterion wind project on Backbone Mountain in Garrett County. They argue the project puts at risk Indiana bats and Virginia big-eared bats, both federally protected as endangered species.

Environmental groups have threatened to sue Constellation Energy Group Inc. for risking protected bats at a planned Western Maryland wind farm, but the company says it will honor endangered species laws.

Save Western Maryland and the Maryland Conservation Council gave Constellation notice June 23 that they plan to attempt to block its Criterion wind project on Backbone Mountain in Garrett County. They argue the project puts at risk Indiana bats and Virginia big-eared bats, both federally protected as endangered species. Federal endangered species law requires 60 days' notice before filing such a lawsuit.

But Constellation officials said they are in the process of applying for what is called an "incidental take permit," which allows private entities to undertake projects that could harm or kill endangered species if they work with federal fish and wildlife officials on a conservation plan. Constellation is going through that process, spokesman Aaron Koos said.

The Criterion wind project is a major one for Constellation and Maryland. The company spent $140 million in April to buy it from Clipper Windpower... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Environmental groups have threatened to sue Constellation Energy Group Inc. for risking protected bats at a planned Western Maryland wind farm, but the company says it will honor endangered species laws.

Save Western Maryland and the Maryland Conservation Council gave Constellation notice June 23 that they plan to attempt to block its Criterion wind project on Backbone Mountain in Garrett County. They argue the project puts at risk Indiana bats and Virginia big-eared bats, both federally protected as endangered species. Federal endangered species law requires 60 days' notice before filing such a lawsuit.

But Constellation officials said they are in the process of applying for what is called an "incidental take permit," which allows private entities to undertake projects that could harm or kill endangered species if they work with federal fish and wildlife officials on a conservation plan. Constellation is going through that process, spokesman Aaron Koos said.

The Criterion wind project is a major one for Constellation and Maryland. The company spent $140 million in April to buy it from Clipper Windpower Inc., including wind turbines and plans that had already been crafted. That came on top of $90 million Constellation committed to spending on solar projects in 2010. The Garrett County project will put 28 wind turbines on ridges around 3,360-foot-high Backbone, the state's highest mountain.

The environmental groups are protesting the project, as well as a similar one from Synergics Wind Energy, for being too large and having too little review. Their letter said they will sue unless Constellation obtains the permit.

Adjustments to the project that could be part of a conservation plan could include changing its scope and how it impacts the bats, as well as stipulations about how the company must replant trees in the area to best accommodate the bats, Koos said.

Constellation, meanwhile, has already begun construction on the project's substations and distribution lines. It is expected to generate 70 megawatts. One megawatt generally provides enough electricity to power 300 homes.

Constellation is also working to close deals to install large amounts of solar panels across the state. The company intends to spend $90 million this year to buy and install solar panels for customers; it will then sell them the renewable power at low rates. One-fourth of that money has been committed so far, Koos said.


Source: http://pittsburgh.bizjourna...

JUL 9 2010
http://www.windaction.org/posts/27184-environmentalists-protesting-constellation-s-western-md-wind-farm
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