Library filed under Impact on Wildlife from West Virginia
At a session of the PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION OF WEST VIRGINIA in the City of Charleston on the 26th day of November, 2008. CASE NO. 08-0109-E-CS AES Laurel Mountain, LLC, a limited liability company, Arlington, Virginia. Application for a siting certificate to authorize the construction and operation of a wholesale electric generating facility in Barbour and Randolph Counties, West Virginia. The full order can be downloaded by clicking on the web link at the bottom of this page.
I had always favored building wind farms. The burden of coal mining-and particularly mountaintop removal coal mining-is so great that anything would be better. If wind farms diminish that then they are worth it. ...Now there is a new twist to the argument, something that makes thinking about wind power even more difficult. In the article that begins on page 14 of this issue, Ms. Collins argues that building more wind farms will not reduce the use of coal. She argues that because wind farms only make electricity when the wind blows, they are inefficient and unreliable. ...If it true that wind farms do not diminish the use of coal, then we do have some rethinking to do. If they do not replace any coal, then what is the point? Why should a single bat die, a single hiker be inconvenienced, a single tree be cut if wind power is not going to reduce the use of coal or some other source of electricity?
With final approval of a siting permit less than a week away, anti-windfarm activists are firing yet another round of legal salvos in their bid to stop the construction of 124 wind turbines slated for north-central Greenbrier County. State Public Service Commission hearings begin next Wednesday to determine if Beech Ridge Energy, owned by the Chicago-based company Invenergy, has complied with dozens of preconstruction terms that the PSC ordered when a conditional building permit was approved in 2007. ...Dave Buhrman said the Washington law firm Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal has been hired to sue Beech Ridge over potential violations of the Endangered Species Act if construction goes forward.
This document provides before and after aerial photos of the very southern end of the NedPower wind facility, the most recently constructed wind energy facility in the mid-Atlantic region. The project is comprised of 132 2-MW Gamesa wind turbines, each nearly 400 feet tall. Extensive clearing of forest was done to install the turbines and other project infrastructure. The average width of the area bulldozed for road corridor varies from about 75 to 100 feet.
Death, destruction and insomnia are marketed as "renewable electricity" to urban consumers. The federal production tax credit drives it all, with additional subsidies on national forest, where no property taxes are levied. ...We'd have to replace nearly every tree with a turbine to offset even a small amount of coal's impact, devastating the forest in the process. Without a national policy on energy conservation and efficiency, we're whistling in the wind anyway.
Marty has been studying the life cycle of the timber rattlesnake for 25 years. He regularly visits several dens that have been in existence on the Allegheny Front for thousands of years -- to check on the emergence of snakes in the spring. Marty had been concerned about the possible disruption of the snake dens by the construction of the Ned-Power Industrial Wind Turbines, but he was assured that the dens, located in rock piles, with crevasses going into the earth, would not be disturbed. When Marty returned to his study site this Spring, this is what he found: "It is finished. There is nothing left to save.
On May 8th 2007, eleven citizens' groups filed a Sixty Day Notice of Intent to Sue regarding the company NedPower Mt. Storm, and its corporate owners Dominion Resources, and Shell Wind Energy. The Notice alleges violations of the Endangered Species Act, involving the West Virginia northern flying squirrel, the Indiana bat, and the Virginia big-eared bat. The Notice also raises concerns about impacts to bald and golden eagles and migrating birds that are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The citizens' groups are demanding that the industrial wind corporation apply for an incidental take permit, and modify or stop construction of this project, before irreparable harm is done to West Virginia's natural heritage.
The prospect of thousands of endangered bats flying to their deaths in West Virginia wind turbines soon could get consideration in federal court because of Judy Rodd. The 63-year-old is the president of Friends of Blackwater Canyon, which recently joined 10 other groups in filing a "notice of intent" with the Fish and Wildlife Service to sue a wind company on Endangered Species Act grounds. The organizations warned of potential turbine kills of the Indiana bat, Virginia big-eared bat and Virginia northern flying squirrel. "Yes, we're concerned about climate change," said Rodd in a phone interview. "But that doesn't mean they can't build the turbines somewhere else and let the bats live."
Eleven citizen and environmental groups in West Virginia and Maryland have filed a 60-day notice about their intent to sue a wind power project. They say the huge turbines from the NedPower Mount Storm project would kill endangered bats and squirrels near the Dolly Sods Wilderness Area. The groups also will sue corporate owners Dominion Resources and Shell Wind Energy for violating the Endangered Species Act, according to Judy Rodd, director of Friends of Blackwater Canyon, based in Charleston. ...Landowners who live near the project also have filed a nuisance suit against NedPower citing concerns about their health and safety, as well as reductions in their property values.
Late last week, eleven citizens groups filed a Sixty Day Notice of Intent to Sue NedPower Mt. Storm and its corporate owners Dominion Resources, and Shell Wind Energy for violations of the Endangered Species Act involving the "takes" of the West Virginia northern flying squirrel, the Indiana bat, and the Virginia big-eared bat. The letter, sent to the Fish and Wildlife Service, NedPower and the West Virginia Public Service Commission, also raises concerns about impacts to bald and golden eagles and migrating birds protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Acts. The groups are demanding that the industrial wind corporation apply for an incidental take permit and modify or stop construction of this project before irreparable harm is done to West Virginia's natural heritage.
Freedom Works is planning the project to span the ridge line running along the border between Va. and West Va. The line runs from approximately five miles north of Woodstock to about five miles South of Mount Jackson, along the Western horizon. This would cover eighteen miles of ridgeline, in two states (Virginia and West Virginia), and three counties (Hardy in West Virginia, and Shenandoah and Rockingham in Virginia.) The timeline for the project runs from as short as a two-year, permit-gathering phase (followed by one to two years of construction) to a completion date as far off as the year 2040. When asked about a reported 2010 completion date for the project, Jim Smalls, district ranger for the Lee Ranger District within which the project is being planned, simply said, "I find that optimistic."
In AES' application to the Public Service Commission for a siting certificate, in the second volume page 5, they state, "there is a demonstrated need for additional generating capacity in the region as well as the PJM (grid managers) power markets which include West Virginia." Maybe AES isn't aware that West Virginia already exports 70 percent of the power produced in the state. We certainly don't need the power. West Virginia being a huge exporter of power has transmission lines running everywhere, providing wind developers easy access to the grid. With no real sitting regulations, no mass population to deal with, and armed with tax credits and incentives, both federal and state, once again West Virginia is ripe for exploitation. ...Hopefully our mountains and wind will always be here. Wind developers want to cram these wind turbines down our throats and act as if this is the only chance we'll ever have to take advantage of this so-called "wonderful opportunity."
The current political wind is in favor of the developers and industrial wind energy interests, thereby significantly influencing the pressure on our natural environment. If the trend continues, how much of our national, state and private forests will remain when our fast expanding population will likely be desperate for a little breathing room in the future - 25, 50 and 100 years from today? I am well aware of the issues of global warming and the nation's energy requirements and am totally convinced that industrial wind energy projects on the ridge tops of the mountains in the Eastern United States is not the solution and unworthy of the billions of dollars that we are bestowing upon this industry. A major reason for the increasing opposition to the development of large industrial wind projects in the mountains is loss of visual amenity, the effects of highly visible vertical man-made structures with rotating blades located in predominantly horizontal, static natural hillscapes. The loss of beautiful scenery, favorite views and inspiring landscapes are objections dismissed by large corporate developers as emotional and subjective. ...In conclusion, the negative issues, problems and drawbacks of siting industrial wind turbines on the pristine mountains is not the answer our nation's need for energy sources. Why are we allowing them to infiltrate our ecologically fragile landscapes and cause huge negative impacts?
Proposals for wind farms in the Valley are whipping up opposing viewpoints about the structures' effects on wildlife, local vistas and energy production. Opponents say the turbines, each hundreds of feet tall, would mar the local landscape and endanger bats and birds, some of which are federally protected. But proponents say the farms can be built with minimum impact on the environment to offer clean, alternative energy and a break from the nation's dependency on foreign oil. ...After studying maps and coordinates provided by the Federal Aviation Administration, consultant D. Daniel Boone, a conservation biologist and policy analyst, said the FreedomWorks' project could negatively affect untouched areas of the George Washington National Forest. "Other than a power line and one small road which crosses between Hardy and Shenandoah counties, the project area is completely undisturbed forest with no sign of logging roads or clear-cuts," Boone stated.
One of my big concerns is that the publicity I see on television and in newspapers does not really reflect both sides of the issue. It makes the average viewer/reader who does not do his own investigation believe that there are no real problems other than that people don't want to look at them across our mountain tops. If the average person really understood the effects of the turbine installation and operation, there would be a lot more people objecting. Perhaps it sounds inappropriate for someone who lives in another county to be objecting to the turbines on Laurel Mountain. As the projects being proposed involve at least 8 counties, there will be a cumulative negative impact if they are approved.
When he received a reply from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service about its correspondence with Liberty Gap, the information included a Nov. 16, 2007 letter from the agency to Wendy Tidhar of WEST, Inc. based in Cheyene, Wyo. WEST apparently represents an unnamed wind energy developer exploring a site on federal national forest property that would affect Pendleton and Hardy counties in West Virginia, and a portion of Rockingham County in Virginia. What the USFWS told Tidhar, says Thomas, is promising for those who have for years stressed the need to protect the environment, birds and bats in particular, from a potential proliferation of wind turbine towers along the Appalachian Front. The USFWS West Virginia Field Office told Tidhar, "We recommend that you consider alternative locations for this wind power facility because the proposed site is a high risk site, and wind power operations at this location pose a reasonable likelihood of take of species protected by the Endangered Species Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty, and Eagle Act."
The Liberty Gap wind energy project planned for the border of Pendleton and Highland counties did not get approval from West Virginia's Public Service Commission last year, but that doesn't mean the company is giving up. According to Pendleton County residents opposed to the project, the developer is moving ahead, attempting to get its application rewritten for a better chance of approval. The West Virginia Public Service Commission had noted several deficiencies in the company's application, including insufficient information on historic resources, site maps, and environmental protect. The grassroots effort to stop the Liberty Gap project was spearheaded by Friends of Beautiful Pendleton County, and according to one of its members, Larry Thomas, it cost $87,000 to challenge the company's application. But Liberty Gap has regrouped and learned from its mistakes, and the next round might cost opponents as much as $250,000.
Congressman Alan Mollohan sent an 11-page letter to the state Division of Energy officials last week, criticizing a new state plan for developing industrial wind power sites, primarily in the state's northeastern counties. State plans "entirely disregard the serious environmental concerns" raised by a number of critical studies prepared by the National Academy of Sciences, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Government Accountability Office, said Mollohan, D-W.Va. Citing state marketing efforts touting the state's scenic vistas and calm pace, he asked, "How do rows of 400-foot-high industrial and wind turbines, spread out over thousands of acres of ridgelines, fit into that picture?" ...James Webb, a University of Virginia research scientist, recently found that the Mountaineer Project in Tucker County operated at only 9 percent of its capacity during the month of August. Webb calculated it would typically take nearly 3,000 huge wind turbines to match the power output of one conventional electric power plant.
By the reasons set forth in this order of Jun 22, 2007, the West Virginia Pubic Service Commission refused to issue a siting certificate to Liberty Gap Wind Force, LLC (Liberty Gap) to construct a wind turbine electric generating facility (Project) in Pendleton County, West Virginia. The applicant, US Wind Force, LLC, a Delaware limited liability company, had proposed constructing up to 50 wind turbines. The total output of the project would be up to 125 megawatts.
My basic position on wind energy in our state is that before decisions are made on building industrial turbines across our mountain ridges, we should have a good idea of what the costs as well as the benefits of those projects will be to West Virginians, both now and in the future. There can be honest disagreements about what those costs and benefits will be, and how they should be weighed. But I hope no one would disagree with the proposition that the decisions to be made on wind turbines - which raise the prospect of permanently altering the face of our State - should be made in a fully informed, considered way. To that end, I believe the immediate need is for there to be a serious, public discussion of wind energy in this State. Members of the news media can play an important part in this discussion, but only to the extent that they report the facts, study the issues carefully, and issue thoughtful commentaries -- rather than merely publishing industry talking points.