Library filed under Impact on Bats from Pennsylvania
While the open sky is big enough for 400-foot-high wind turbines and migratory birds, animal conservationists are airing their concerns about the threat windmills pose to wildlife. "Any place thinking about installation (of wind turbines) should take years studying the issue," Keith Bildstein, director of conservation science at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, said Friday. "That is a prescription the wind industry apparently finds distasteful." Bildstein and other local conservationists and bird-watchers say the wind industry fails to adequately study bird migration patterns before wind projects break ground.
Two years ago, PPM commissioned a study to learn how many bats could be affected by its proposed wind farm. Biologists hung nets for two nights in 10 locations and caught 138 bats. Cale calculates that if 24 nets -- that's one for each turbine -- were left up through the 14 combined weeks of seasonal bat migration, more than 16,000 bats would be caught. Each net covered an area of about 1,000 square feet. That compares to 66,000 square feet carved out by a turbine's rotating blades. "It's going to be a slaughterhouse," Cale said.
Eric Glitzenstein, a Washington, D.C., attorney who is preparing the lawsuit, referred to the Endangered Species Act. "The courts view the unauthorized loss of even a single member of such a species to be an irreparable harm that should be prevented," he wrote in an e-mail. The letter of intent is required by the Endangered Species Act, he said. The groups have yet to decide where the suit would be filed, Glitzenstein added. "Our hope is that Gamesa - which touts itself as an environmentally responsible company - will agree either to do the right thing and abandon this ill-considered project site or, at least, do what is required by federal law and not proceed without applying for an ‘incidental take permit' from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service." The Indiana bat has been a protected species since 1967.
The tiny, endangered Indiana bat lives on Shaffer Mountain in northeastern Somerset County and that should be enough to keep 30 big wind turbines off that ecologically sensitive Appalachian ridge, according to three environmental groups. The groups -- Sensible Wind Solutions, Mountain Laurel Chapter of Trout Unlimited and the Allegheny Plateau Audubon Society -- yesterday served the Spanish-owned wind power company, Gamesa Energy, with a notice of intent to sue under the federal Endangered Species Act. According to the notice, the site where the 404-foot tall turbines and 18 miles of service roads would be built on 22,000 acres of leased land is confirmed habitat for the Indiana bat, listed as an endangered species since 1967. ...Gamesa officials yesterday declined comment.
The fight to stop the Shaffer Mountain Wind Farm will be pushed to federal court with a claim that the facility will harm an endangered species living on the site, according to John Buchan Jr., an ardent opponent of the project. Buchan, one of the founders of Sensible Wind Solutions, said the group will send a notice of intent to file suit with federal and state agencies charged with protecting the Indiana bat (Myotis sodalist), which is on the endangered species list. Sensible Wind Solutions, a not-for-profit group seeking the relocation of Gamesa Energy USA's 30-plus turbines slated for the Allegheny Front, believes the bat has a reproducing colony somewhere on the proposed site, the letter will state, Buchan said.
The owner of Laurel Caverns told the Fayette County Zoning Hearing Board Wednesday that if a special exception is approved to allow windmills to be constructed in Georges and Springhill townships, it could result in the site of the most killings of bats in the United States. David Cale said the site holds that potential, although he acknowledged under questioning that it is unknown if that actually would occur. The largest measured annual bat kill was in 2003 when 2,000 bats were killed at a windmill site in West Virginia. ...Enfield previously said although the turbines may have a significant impact on bats, most of the bats are migrating, and steps can be taken to lessen the impact, such as putting a deterrent on the turbines to ward away the bats. Cale also spoke about the potential for "ice throw" of 425 feet, and pointed out that the towers can be seen from miles away and they would impact the view. ...Because there were numerous people in attendance who did not get to testify at the hearing, the board continued the hearing until 10 a.m. Jan. 30, 2008, when testimony in the matter is expected to conclude.
US Fish and Wildlife Service responded to Gamesa Energy USA in regard to whether an “Incidental take” permit could be granted for the Shaffer Mountain wind project proposed for Somerset County, PA. An “Incidental take” permit allows for the destruction of federally listed species. A subset of the letter is included on this page. The full letter, in PDF format, can be accessed by clicking on the link below.
It wasn't supposed to be a debate Wednesday night. Gamesa invited Tyrone residents to come to an open house and ask questions about what 15 windmills atop Ice Mountain might mean for them. ...But those curious residents were among the few. Dozens turned out, bringing their opposition. "Not only is it a unique area and a natural heritage area, but it's also an area that provides all the drinking water for the city of Tyrone," said Dr. Stan Kotala, president of the Juniata Valley Audubon Society.
[Dr. Michael] Gannon is an acknowledged expert on bats, bat ecology and bat population ecology. He has studied bats all over the world for over 20 years ...Gannon stated that he does not oppose responsible alternative energy development such as wind, but he does oppose development that does not require the developer to use sound current scientific based evaluations to evaluate the environmental impact of the site before construction occurs. He said that "thus far no site in PA has done so, and no requirements (voluntary or not) exist that are sound and current in their science." ..."The chances that a wind facility in this area will have a negative impact on our bat populations appear to be extremely high," said Gannon. "The proliferation of numerous wind sites in this part of the country, most of which have or are being documented to have such an effect on bats, could be the most serious threat to our bat population, our biological insect control, that science has seen."
Tyrone Mayor James Kilmartin has said that 70 percent of borough residents he has been in contact with oppose the wind farm project. This is a similar result to the Harrisburg Patriot News poll that revealed that 83 percent of Pennsylvanians oppose industrial wind farms on state forest lands. Juniata Valley Audubon Society (JVAS) President Stan Kotala, M.D. has been at the forefront of the opposition in Gamesa's proposed wind farm on Ice Mountain. He said that the JVAS is not opposed to wind energy, but asks that wind energy be developed in an ecologically sound manner, avoiding ecologically sensitive areas, such as Ice Mountain. "We ask that wind energy developers follow US Fish and Wildlife Service Guidelines calling for the avoidance of migratory pathways and unfragmented forests," said Kotala.
A study conducted on behalf of Gamesa reveled that two juvenile Indiana bats, federally listed endangered species, were discovered in the middle of the company's proposed windmill project area. Jack Buchan, a Shaffer Mountain property owner and member of Sensible Wind Solutions, said he received the report a few days ago and was not surprised the Indiana bats were discovered at that location. He said Gamesa will need a "takings permit" under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 to build the wind farm. "Since they were juveniles, it means there is a colony nearby that is probably breeding on Shaffer Mountain," he said.
Letter to Tyrone Mayor James Kilmartin in response to Mayor Kilmartin's request for community input on a potential wind facility. Gamesa is proposing to erect 10-15 wind turbines on borough property located on Ice Mountain for a total of 25 units on the ridge tops in the area.
The Pennsylvania Biological Survey has gone to bat for the bats in a swirling policy debate over whether commercial wind power development should be permitted in state forests. The debate pits advocates of wind power as an alternative energy source against those who fear that windmills are harmful to bats and birds.
This important peer-reviewed paper written by bat expert Dr. Thomas H. Kunz et al identifies the significant risk wind turbines pose for migratory and local bat populations in the mid-Atlantic Highlands region of the United States. The projected number of annual fatalities of bats at wind energy facilities in the Highlands in the year 2020 can reach up to 111,000 bats.
This report, authored by the Wind Energy and Bats subcommittee to the Pennsylvania Biological Survey's (PaBS) Mammal Technical Committee, documents the PA Game Commission's direct side-stepping of a long-established memorandum of agreement with the PaBS when the Game Commission developed and finalized the Wind Energy Voluntary Cooperation Agreement without the review or input of the Biological Survey. The memorandum of agreement was created over 10 years ago to help ensure that the Game Commission obtained advice from experts about actions affecting the mammals inhabiting the Commonwealth.
Using a radio transmitter the size of a shelled pea, John Chenger is studying an endangered bat population that hibernates in an abandoned rail tunnel near the Allegheny Tunnel on the state Turnpike. On April 17, he and his associates at Bat Conservation and Management of Carlisle joined with Sanders Environmental Inc. Centre Hall to tag 15 Indiana bats as the came out of hibernation. "We're trying to figure out where they go," Chenger explained. "Do they go five miles? Do they go 300 miles? It just isn't very well understood at this point."
This document includes studies in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia and West Virginia.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission is on track with plans to create what it believes is the nation's first voluntary cooperative agreement with wind-energy developers to protect birds and bats. Wind-energy developers and outside wildlife advocates have prepared a draft agreement that would impose rules on the fast-growing industry before irreparable damage is done to bird and bat populations, said William A. Capouillez, director of the Bureau of Wildlife Habitat Management, the Game Commission. "We have broad powers under Title 34," Capouillez said, referring to the 1987 law that authorizes and empowers the Game Commission. "I tell them: Would you rather have the voluntary agreement or Title 34? We could do zero tolerance on bird kills."
Two bird specialists familiar with the Pennsylvania Game Commission efforts to protect wildlife from wind turbines offered cautious support, although each found things they didn’t like. A bat specialist was more critical. Keith Bildstein, director of conservation science at the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in Berks County, likes the draft agreement that would establish rules wind-energy developers would voluntarily follow. But he would prefer that the Game Commission impose an immediate moratorium on wind farms being built on high-risk sites, meaning places where wind turbines would be most dangerous to birds and bats. “We need to begin development of wind power at low-risk areas,” Bildstein said. “Do pre-construction and post-construction monitoring. Find the problems.”
Johnstown veterinarian Tom Dick is a longtime bird-watcher and a battle-scarred veteran of local environmental struggles. So, it’s no surprise to find him at the forefront of concerns about the threat that wind turbines could present to migrating birds and bats. Dick is especially worried about the effect large-scale development of wind farms might have on the rugged and largely unspoiled Allegheny Front, the mountainous wall that stretches north and south along the Cambria-Somerset-Bedford county borders. And like many opponents to the rapid pace of wind-energy development, he is afraid the true cost of the industry will not be known until it is too late for some species.