Library filed under Impact on Bats from Hawaii
The federal government has charged that state officials are rushing to approve wind power projects without adequately considering environmental impacts, particularly the adverse consequences for an endangered species, the opeapea bat. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service asked the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission in a Dec. 27 letter to stop approving any new wind turbines until state and federal officials have had the chance to meet with the facility owners and review the plans.
This important letter to the Hawaii PUC warns that wind projects operating in the State are impacting endangered species. To address this situation, US FWS askes the PUC to delay approval of any new wind facility contracts until the proponents make the time to meet with the Service. A portion of the letter is provided below. The full letter can be accessed by selecting the documents link(s) on this page.
“How many bats are you killing?” he asked. “Why is that OK? If that’s an endangered species, why is it right to kill 40 or 60 of them?” He also questioned how the wind farm was handling the remains of the bats that had been killed. “Did you put them in garbage bags and throw them away?” he asked. “Was there any burial treatment? We treat them like human remains.”
“It’s a conservation conundrum,” said Phillips. “We want green energy, but are we willing to do that at the extinction of our only native land mammal?” Fish and Wildlife officials anticipate the draft of the programmatic environmental statement and each wind energy project’s habitat conservation plan will be available for public review and commentary by the end of this year.
“Hawaii has been through so much trial and error, and we don’t even have all the information at the table,” Tuivaiti said. “We’re still trying to figure out the population. We’re still trying to figure out about the bats themselves, and here we are just kind of playing God. . . . If we keep taking, we’re going to have nothing left.”
"Currently, all major wind farms in Hawaii have exceeded their amount of take that they've been approved for. In fact, the two existing wind farms on Oahu have already killed over 70 bats in just a few years of operation," said Maxx Phillips, an attorney for Keep the North Shore Country.
As wind farms statewide are killing more Hawaiian hoary bats than expected, a Maui wind farm is asking the state to increase the amount of endangered bats and nene it’s allowed to incidentally kill.
A Maui wind farm wants the government to increase the number of endangered Hawaiian hoary bats it is allowed to kill, after passing the limit 15 years ahead of schedule. SunEdison Inc., owner of the 21-megawatt wind facility called Kaheawa Wind Power II, requested to increase the amount of hoary bats the facility is allowed to kill to 62 from 11 bats over its 20-year project with the Department of Land and Natural Resources. DLNR proposed to approve the increase in a bulletin called the Environment Notice from the Office of Environmental Quality Control released Thursday. “The proposed action would result in benefits at the local and state level by producing clean, renewable energy in line with Hawaii’s clean-energy goals,” DLNR said in the notice. “Effects to the Hawaiian hoary bat and nene would be offset by funding research, restoration, or land acquisition to mitigate for the take of each species. Based on the mitigation efforts, no adverse impacts to either species is anticipated.”
“We don’t think the mitigation measure and adaptive measurements have met the standards of the law,” Phillips said. “Specifically with the Hawaiian hoary bat, we don’t really know how many bats there are. … Even at those numbers, if it’s only a couple hundred and if they are killing over 50 bats, that is a huge impact to the species’ base line.”
The company is seeking an incidental take permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and has prepared a draft habitat conservation plan and environmental assessment to minimize the effects on the endangered Hawaiian petrel ('ua'u), the endangered Hawaiian stilt (ae'o), the endangered Hawaiian hoary bat ('ope'ape'a), and the threatened Newell's shearwater ('a'o). Six of the seven 165-foot towers already have been built on land owned by Castle & Cooke. The company plans to build the remaining tower and operate all seven for a period of up to two years to collect data on wind patterns, according to permit documents.
The Kaheawa Wind Power wind farm on Maui will perform $3.8 million in work to benefit birds and bats to make up for any damage the species suffer from the rotating blades of 20 wind turbines.