Articles filed under Legal from California
Prospects may have dimmed for a major new wind farm 60 miles east of San Diego after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rejected a permit to address fatal collisions between golden eagles and spinning turbines.
A conservation group and two private landowners are suing the Interior Department and the agency’s Bureau of Indian Affairs for approving the expansion of a California wind farm in alleged violation of environmental laws and despite objections from federal and state wildlife officials who warned of significant impacts to eagles.
The tower, measuring just inches under 200 feet, was hastily erected in 2009 by wind energy interests "prospecting" for the perfect site for a new wind farm in Contra Costa County east of San Francisco.
In the meantime, according to the lawsuit, when the BLM analyzed risks to eagles from Tule Wind before approving Phase I in 2011, that agency didn't consider the additional risk from the "ridgeline" turbines that would be part of Phase II. That means that the whole-project threat to eagles has apparently never been fully assessed.
Allen was never made aware of the existence of the tower by Bouldin Farming Company, and it was clear he never saw it before he struck it. Allen's death isn't the first time an agricultural aviator has had a fatal collision with an unmarked and unlit MET during daytime operations. An analysis of FAA and NTSB accident data by the National Agricultural Aviation Association (NAAA) shows that 10 fatal agricultural aircraft accidents in the past 14 years (2000–2013) involved collisions with towers—including three with unmarked MET towers.
A dispute over a Montana wind farm’s potential to harm nearby nesting eagles and other birds should be heard in California, the Montana Supreme Court said Friday, in an opinion that deals a legal setback to the project’s developers.
SDG&E filed a lawsuit Dec. 19 in California Superior Court seeking to terminate the power purchase and investment contracts alleging NaturEner did not meet avian protections called for in the contracts. Late last month, it filed an amended complaint alleging NaturEner fraudulently concealed that federal wildlife officials recommend an eagle take permit.
SDG&E has said in court documents that the project could still kill, displace or disturb eagles. The utility says NaturEner concealed that possibility until last December, when it turned over documents revealing the birds were at risk.
Opponents of the Tule Wind project in McCain Valley will have their day in court on Monday, March 3 in San Diego’s U.S. District Court. Then on April 25, a separate suit against the County over its wind energy ordinance and general plan amendment will also be heard.The suits were filed by the Protect Our Communities Foundation and Donna Tisdale.
SDG&E alleges that NaturEner misrepresented the risks of the wind farm to birds in order to secure financing for the project and did not meet conditions set forth in the contract related to avian protection.
“Had SDG&E been aware of the truth, it very likely would not have entered into contracts involving hundreds of millions of dollars,” SDG&E’s suit states. The San Diego utility may be leery of the Montana project’s impacts on golden eagles following its own violations while building another major construction effort.
San Diego Gas and Electric filed a lawsuit Thursday in San Diego Superior Court against Rim Rock wind farm owner NaturEner asking the court to confirm its allegation that the company did not meet contractual requirements related to the preservation of eagles, raptors and other protected bird and bat species. “Unfortunately, the project’s owner, NaturEner, did not meet its contractual requirements, so SDG&E has decided not to make the investment in Rim Rock or to continue purchasing its renewable energy credits.”
NaturEner, which owns and operates three wind farms in Montana, sued a California utility on Friday for breaching contracts to invest in the Rim Rock wind farm. The lawsuit also seeks to prevent the utility from reneging on its contractual promise to buy the renewable energy generated at the facility.
U.S. Magistrate Judge David H. Bartick sentenced John David Bittner of Julian, president of the Wildlife Research Institute in Ramona, to three years probation and a $7500 fine. Bittner pled guilty to unlawful taking of a Golden Eagle without a permit and failing to file any data reports for a four-year period on birds that he had banded. The government could have imposed up to a $100,000 fine and a one-year prison sentence, but instead hope to induce Bittner to turn over years of missing data as a condition of probation.
"Basically our community is being turned into an industrial energy zone, unwillingly," Tisdale said. "The county and the feds have not done their due diligence about what happens to people when they allow these things too close to homes and sensitive wildlife areas."
The long-lasting legal disputes related to five U.S. wind farms in which Infigen holds interest, particularly California's Kumeyaay Wind Farm. Following a December 2009 storm, Infigen claimed Gamesa was liable to pay over $30 million for site repairs and replacement of all 75 wind turbines at Kumeyaay. Gamesa, meanwhile, maintained that Kumeyaay Wind LLC should bear the costs.
This wholly avoidable public health and safety hazard occurred just one day after San Diego County Board of Supervisors approved the revised Wind Energy Ordinance & Boulevard Community Plan to remove community protections to allow 500 foot tall industrial wind turbines on private land in previously protected areas near homes, recreation areas, and sensitive wildlife.
The City Council voted 5-1 Monday night after a nearly three-hour discussion to deny an appeal of the approval granted in February by the city's Board of Zoning Adjustments for the turbine, which required a variance because it exceeds the city's 60-foot height limit.
"The [Heron Bay Homeowners Association] board has to make formal vote on it, but I think we were committed before and we're committed now that we will be filing in Superior Court," said Alan Berger, the attorney for the homeowners association. "We absolutely do not feel the board of zoning and the city council followed all of the voluminous case law in California ...."