Library filed under Impact on Bats
A federal court opinion filed Tuesday in Maryland blocks completion of the planned 119-turbine Beech Ridge Energy wind farm in Greenbrier County, and restricts the operation of the project's 40 already-built turbines to the hibernation period of an endangered bat species. The opinion, written by U.S. District Judge Roger W. Titus in Greenbelt, Md., determined that Beech Ridge violated the terms of the Endangered Species Act.
Federal district court Judge Roger Titus of the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland issued a comprehensive ruling that an industrial wind energy facility in Greenbrier County, West Virginia will kill and injure endangered Indiana bats, in violation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The court concluded that “the development of wind energy can and should be encouraged, but wind turbines must be good neighbors.” This is the first federal court ruling in the country finding a wind power project in violation of federal environmental law. Judge Titus' opinion and order on this matter can be downloaded by clicking the links at the bottom of this page.
A federal district court judge in Maryland placed a huge roadblock in the path of a planned industrial wind facility in northern Greenbrier County, saying construction of the wind turbines would violate the Endangered Species Act. Judge Roger W. Titus issued an order Tuesday afternoon granting an injunction, which halts the project in its tracks.
A federal judge is expected to rule on a case that could change the course of a wind farm in Greenbrier County. The Animal Welfare Institute and Mountain Communities for Responsible Energy say the Beech Ridge wind energy project has the potential to harm the endangered Indiana bat and the groups are suing the developer, Invenergy, LLC, to stop the project.
During the winter of 2006/2007, an affliction of unknown origin dubbed “White-Nose Syndrome” (WNS) began devastating colonies of hibernating bats in a small area around Albany, New York. Colonies of hibernating bats were reduced 81-97% at the affected caves and mines that were surveyed. Since then, White-Nose Syndrome has been detected more than 700 kilometers (450 mi) away from the original site, and has infected bats in eight surrounding states. Most species of bats that hibernate in the region are now known to be affected and little brown bats (Myotis lucifugus), northern long-eared bats (M. septentrionalis), and federally listed (endangered) Indiana bats (M. sodalis) have been hit particularly hard. The sudden and widespread mortality associated with White-Nose Syndrome is unprecedented in hibernating bats, which differ from most other small mammals in that their survival strategy is to live life in the slow lane—their life history adaptations include high rates of survival and low fecundity, resulting in low potential for population growth. Most of the affected species are long lived (~5-15 years or more) and have only one offspring per year. Subsequently, bat numbers do not fluctuate widely over time, and populations of bats affected by White-Nose Syndrome will not recover quickly. Epizootic disease outbreaks have never been previously documented in hibernating bats.
Thousands of industrial-scale wind turbines are being built across the world each year to meet the growing demand for sustainable energy. Bats of certain species are dying at wind turbines in unprecedented numbers. Species of bats consistently affected by turbines tend to be those that rely on trees as roosts and most migrate long distances. Although considerable progress has been made in recent years toward better understanding the problem, the causes of bat fatalities at turbines remain unclear. In this synthesis, we review hypothesized causes of bat fatalities at turbines. Hypotheses of cause fall into 2 general categories—proximate and ultimate. Proximate causes explain the direct means by which bats die at turbines and include collision with towers and rotating blades, and barotrauma. Ultimate causes explain why bats come close to turbines and include 3 general types: random collisions, coincidental collisions, and collisions that result from attraction of bats to turbines. The random collision hypothesis posits that interactions between bats and turbines are random events and that fatalities are representative of the bats present at a site. Coincidental hypotheses posit that certain aspects of bat distribution or behavior put them at risk of collision and include aggregation during migration and seasonal increases in flight activity associated with feeding or mating. A surprising number of attraction hypotheses suggest that bats might be attracted to turbines out of curiosity, misperception, or as potential feeding, roosting, flocking, and mating opportunities. Identifying, prioritizing, and testing hypothesized causes of bat collisions with wind turbines are vital steps toward developing practical solutions to the problem.
Opponents to a proposed electricity-generating turbine project in Champaign County questioned Thursday during state hearings whether the wind-turbines would harm an endangered species of bat, but a researcher who studied the issue said the windmills would not. ...UNU attorneys argued the study did not follow specific guidelines for net placement developed by the department of fish and wildlife. A follow-up study by wildlife officials, however, did find evidence of the Indiana bat in the area. Meinke said she had worked closely with officials from the department of fish and wildlife when she conducted the study, which was deemed adequate at the time.
US Fish and Wildlife Service, Wet Virginia field office, issued these comments regarding the Pinnacle wind power project proposed for ridgelines in Mineral County, WV. The comments pertain to the Habitat Characterization and Assessment of Rare, Threatened, and Endangered Species for the Pinnacle Wind Farm (BHE Environmental 2009a); the Avian Risk Assessment for the Pinnacle Wind Power Project (Kerlinger 2009); and the Bat Risk Assessment: Pinnacle Wind Farm (BHE Environmental 2009b). Excerpts of the letter are provided below. The full report can be accessed by clicking on the link at the bottom of the page.
While the Galloo Island Wind Farm project seems to be moving slowly along, I am writing on behalf of those who cannot, the birds. Very close to Galloo Island is 43-acre Little Galloo Island. This, along with Gull Island and two small sites on Galloo Island, is designated the "Lake Ontario Bird Conservation Area" by the state Department of Environmental Conservation. These islands are one of the premier colonial waterbird nesting areas in North America. On Little Galloo is found probably the largest colony of ring-billed gulls in North America. Also found there is one of just two confirmed nesting sites in New York state for Caspian terns.
The thousand of birds killed by the wind turbines at Altamont Pass tainted the reputation of the renewable energy source. But according to a recent report by the Ventana Wildlife Society and the Stanford Solar and Wind Energy Project, smaller wind-power projects may be able to harvest energy in some parts of Monterey County without harming the endangered California condor. "The condor is the main thing that's been holding up the development of wind-power projects in Monterey County," said John Roitz.
Attorneys for the developers of a West Virginia wind farm questioned all but their last witness in a trial over whether the project will harm an endangered bat. The defense witnesses said Friday in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt that netting has not captured any Indiana bats and disputed audio recordings that witnesses for the plaintiffs say show the endangered bats are at the site.
A proposed West Virginia wind power project will harm a tiny, endangered bat and its developers should be should be required to obtain permits under the Endangered Species Act, attorneys for two environmental groups argued Wednesday in federal court. The developers admit bats will be killed by the turbines, but refuse to acknowledge the endangered Indiana bat will be among them, plaintiffs attorney Eric Glitzenstein argued in his opening statements.
The 124-turbine wind farm being built by Rockville-based Beech Ridge Energy would put the lives of endangered Indiana bats, and other bat species, in danger, according to the plaintiffs -- The Animal Welfare Institute, Mountain Communities for Responsible Energy and David G. Cowan. Plaintiff's witness Michael Gannon, a bat biologist and professor at Pennsylvania State University, said he is "very much in favor" of wind energy, but remains concerned that this project could have a devastating effect on the Indiana bat.
Workers atop mountain ridges are putting together 389-foot windmills with massive blades that will turn Appalachian breezes into energy. Retiree David Cowan is fighting to stop them. Because of the bats. ...It is the first court challenge to wind power under the Endangered Species Act, lawyers on both sides say. With President Obama's goal of doubling renewable energy production by 2012, wind and solar farms are rapidly expanding. As they do, battles are being waged to reach the right balance between the benefits of clean energy and the impact on birds, bats and even the water supply.
Since 2003, with the discovery of significant bat kills at the Mountaineer wind energy facility sited on a forested ridgeline in West Virginia, the wind industry has been battling the issue of how best to predict and site wind facilities to avoid, or minimize the problem. High bat mortality has since been reported at project sites worldwide, particularly involving migratory species, prompting concerns of cumulative effects on bat populations.
The federal lawsuit filed against Beech Ridge Energy and its parent corporation by Mountain Communities for Responsible Energy and others will culminate with an evidentiary trial starting October 21st in Greenbelt, Maryland. ...Beech Ridge Energy concedes that approximately 135,000 bats could be killed during the twenty-year operation of the project. Despite this staggering figure, Beech Ridge Energy's staff have testified previously that Indiana bats were not likely to be killed by the project because pre-construction surveys did not establish presence of the species on the project site. However, the discovery process leading up to this October trial has exposed evidence to the contrary.
Reporting in The Journal of Wildlife Management, researchers write about a strategy for protecting migratory bats from fatal encounters with wind farms. Study author Robert Barclay discusses the method, which halves bat fatalities without significantly reducing energy production - or profits.
Wind turbine memorial. Illustration: Rob Biddulph Imagine that at the flick of a switch, you could not only turn a light on or off but select which power source you were going to use. Would an eco warrior choose wind power or coal? Surely this is a no-brainer. Not necessarily.
The Animal Welfare Institute, Mountain Communities for Responsible Energy, and others submitted this pretrial brief and supporting reply briefs in their law suit opposing the Beech Ridge wind energy facility to be located in Greenbrier County, West Virginia. These briefs show that the developer, Beech Ridge Energy LLC, discovered the presence of the federally endangered Indiana Bat at the project site but withheld this information from federal and state authorities. With this information hidden from public inspection, the project was granted a siting certificate from the West Virginia Public Service Commission to construct up to 124 wind turbines, each 390 feet tall, along a twenty-three mile stretch of land on forested Allegheny Mountain ridgelines. Construction commence in early 2009 but a subsequent injunction request was filed by the plaintiffs and granted pending the outcome of this law suit. The pre-trial brief and reply briefs by renown bat experts Drs. Lynn Robbins, Michael Gannon and Thomas Kunz can be accessed by clicking on the links below. The introduction to the reply brief is also posted below. The trial is scheduled from October 21 before the United States District Court for the District of Maryland.
Turbines already are taking a heavy toll in West Virginia and Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Game Commission released a report last spring showing the death rate is highest for bats, which additionally face being wiped out by a mysterious phenomenon called "white-nose syndrome." The evidence has mounted since studies in 2004 showed 1,500 to 4,000 bats annually were killed by the 44 turbines on West Virginia's Backbone Mountain.