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Congress urged to study effects of wind power on bats, birds

WASHINGTON - An unusual coalition of conservationists and coal advocates told Congress on Tuesday that before the nation continues its rapid expansion of wind power, an assessment is needed of how many bats and birds are maimed and killed by wind turbines' blades. That study should be followed up with regulations to protect those species, witnesses told a House Natural Resources subcommittee.

WASHINGTON - An unusual coalition of conservationists and coal advocates told Congress on Tuesday that before the nation continues its rapid expansion of wind power, an assessment is needed of how many bats and birds are maimed and killed by wind turbines' blades.

That study should be followed up with regulations to protect those species, witnesses told a House Natural Resources subcommittee.

"Some of these bats are not endangered species, but at the rate they are being killed by these windmills, they may become an endangered species," said Rep. Alan Mollohan, D-W.Va.

That state produces about 15 percent of the nation's coal, and Mollohan's House Web site calls him a staunch industry advocate.

He picked up some unaccustomed allies as conservation experts expressed uncertainty about the harm that turbines might cause wildlife.

"This is the only energy sector that is unregulated," testified American Bird Conservancy director Michael Fry. "Nobody really wants mountaintop coal," which is mined in a way that strongly affects the environment, "but you have to enforce some laws," he said.

Edward Arnett, a scientist at Austin-based Bat Conservation International, said he wasn't sure... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

WASHINGTON - An unusual coalition of conservationists and coal advocates told Congress on Tuesday that before the nation continues its rapid expansion of wind power, an assessment is needed of how many bats and birds are maimed and killed by wind turbines' blades.

That study should be followed up with regulations to protect those species, witnesses told a House Natural Resources subcommittee.

"Some of these bats are not endangered species, but at the rate they are being killed by these windmills, they may become an endangered species," said Rep. Alan Mollohan, D-W.Va.

That state produces about 15 percent of the nation's coal, and Mollohan's House Web site calls him a staunch industry advocate.

He picked up some unaccustomed allies as conservation experts expressed uncertainty about the harm that turbines might cause wildlife.

"This is the only energy sector that is unregulated," testified American Bird Conservancy director Michael Fry. "Nobody really wants mountaintop coal," which is mined in a way that strongly affects the environment, "but you have to enforce some laws," he said.

Edward Arnett, a scientist at Austin-based Bat Conservation International, said he wasn't sure how the more than 2,000 wind turbines in West Texas affect animals.

"Our concern is the lack of information," Arnett said. "We have absolutely no understanding of the impact on bats or birds in that particular region."

He said scientists also have not been able to determine whether Austin's famed colony of Mexican free-tailed bats has been affected by the state's push into wind power.

Though wind energy is still just a sliver of the overall U.S. energy market, according to the American Wind Energy Association, it grew 27 percent in 2006 to generate power for 2.9 million homes nationwide. The trade group did not testify Tuesday but distributed material claiming that less than one of every 10,000 bird deaths caused by human activities is because of a wind turbine.

tcopp@statesman.com



Source: http://www.statesman.com/ne...

MAY 2 2007
http://www.windaction.org/posts/8609-congress-urged-to-study-effects-of-wind-power-on-bats-birds
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