Library filed under Impact on Wildlife from Pennsylvania
...environmentalists already have voiced concerns about what they say are the negative effects of fragmenting the forestland. Stan Kotala, president of the Juniata Valley Audubon Society, said Ice Mountain in Blair County, where part of the project would be built, is unique because it has a large expanse of unbroken forest. That interior forest is favored by some species including the bobcat, fisher and scarlet tanager, Kotala said. The county Planning Commission's Natural Heritage Inventory designated the area a natural heritage area, he said. "We just feel that it should be protected," he said. Gary Thornbloom, chairman of the Sierra Club Moshannon Group, said the biggest concern is where the wind industry is putting its projects.
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.
What is your main concern right now with a wind farm on Ice Mountain? My main concern would be the noise levels of the wind mills, based on the noise problem at the Allegheny Ridge project right now. Gamesa doesn't say there's not a problem, they admit there is a problem and they're working on it, but until they get that problem fixed, I'm pretty much a "no" until I hear that. If Gamesa fixes that problem, and the opponents up there that told me they don't like the noise are happy, and the noise is not there anymore, I can't think of anything standing in my way of a wind farm, in just my vote, coming here.
On Capitol Hill, the Audubon Society is leading the fight to increase production of climate-friendly power. So why are Audubon enthusiasts battling a wind farm that could help meet that goal? For one thing, there are trout in nearby streams, which activists say are at risk from chemical and sediment runoff from construction of 30 turbines, each soaring about 400 feet -- taller than the Statue of Liberty. Then there are the bats and hawks, which might be puréed by the giant blades that would catch the wind gusting along the Allegheny Mountains of Western Pennsylvania. "They're enormous," says Tom Dick, a retired veterinarian who founded the local Audubon chapter. "When you start looking at this, it's like, 'hell, this is not right.'"
Our area, in particular, does not seem to possess an accurate spot for windmills. Somerset County seems to be a target area for the windmill companies, which is fine, but no one seems to consider all parties involved. In my opinion, money has blinded many eyes and covered many ears. Is everyone taking into consideration the wildlife and trees that are abandoned and lost? What about the constant noises that can affect the nearby homeowners and their families? Somerset is a rural area. Many people retreat to our town to get away from life in the city and the sight of windmills seems to disturb the country scene that everyone has grown to know and love. ...I’m not anti-energy, but if proper locations are not located in Somerset, then windmills should be situated somewhere else, preferably a place where they seem more fitting and they will have less of an impact on people and nature.
A Pennsylvania company is asking the O'Malley administration for leases in two Western Maryland state forests so it can clear up to 400 mountaintop acres to build about 100 wind turbines. The U.S. Wind Force structures would be about 40 stories tall and visible from some of the region's most popular tourist areas, including Deep Creek Lake and the Savage River Reservoir. ...Dan Boone, a former state wildlife biologist who has been fighting wind farms in Western Maryland, said the Savage River and Potomac state forests contain rare old-growth trees and threatened species. "You are talking about taking one of the most spectacular scenic overlooks in Maryland and industrializing it," Boone said of a proposed site on Meadow Mountain in the Savage River forest. "It would be a real tragedy to take state lands and convert them into an industrial theme park for U.S. Wind Force."
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.
An open house Wednesday by Spanish energy producer Gamesa USA is not exactly the kind of forum Tyrone's mayor had in mind when he asked the company to hold a public meeting on its proposed Ice Mountain wind farm. ... As it is set up now, with Gamesa representatives talking to people one-on-one, there's a missed opportunity for more people to hear how the company is addressing its critics.
[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.
But the fact is that while wind power is being promoted as an essential part of any credible response to climate change, it is increasingly being challenged and questioned, as indeed is the case with other so-called "renewable" forms of energy, such as corn-based ethanol. ...a National Research Council study released this year entitled "Environmental Effects of Wind Energy Projects," concluded that based on the expected maximum number of windmills to be built, wind would offset total expected higher carbon emissions by no more that 2.25 percent. Is that a difference worth allowing the ridge tops of Pennsylvania to be dotted with giant industrial-sized windmills?
In 2005, Tyrone Borough Forester, Paul Noll, of Noll's Forestry Services, Inc. wrote the Pennsylvania Forest Stewardship Plan based on the 3,800 acre borough watershed property. Recently, Noll issued a recommendation/ suggestion summary report on the property concerning the possible Gamesa Energy USA wind farm installation and the issues that need to be addressed at the watershed property as a whole. ...In Noll's recent report, he stated that he would be "in favor of having the wind towers erected on the watershed property because you will be disturbing only a small area of the property, but the money you receive from the towers can be used to improve other areas of the watershed property."
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.
Clean energy, no greenhouse gases, less dependence on foreign oil, guaranteed revenue for Tyrone - what's the catch? Well, there are many definite and possible catches. Gamesa promises no negative impacts to Tyrone's drinking water, but I wonder if they can really build all of those giant wind turbines without erosion taking place. There is always the possibility of an accident as well. According to Stan Kotala, spokesperson for the Juniata Valley Audubon Society, the small environmental gain from building the windmills would be offset by a huge ecological cost. Sandy Ridge has been identified as an Important Bird Area and a greenway. The wind turbines threaten birds and building them causes forest fragmentation. Mayor Kilmartin points out in his analysis, "... the structures will take up the ridge tops that people so tremendously love about this community." And these are big structures, too. One can't really comprehend their 450-foot height until you get close.
Recent articles, stated the project will enhance the water quality at this site. Also, Gamesa states that protecting natural resources and wildlife is a "shared priority" with the community. If this is so, then why was there a rattlesnake study of the area done in November (when snakes are hibernating)? Why did Gamesa do a study on bird migration in July, when bird migration doesn't start until late August, September and October? How does bringing in large equipment to clear-cut the forest and building new roads improve water quality of streams that are already of the highest quality in the state?
I made a trip up to Blue Knob today, in response to a constituent complaint to hear and see the new wind turbines located along the mountain top. ...It was a windy day and the blades were really moving. The complaint we received was about how disruptive the noise was. I agree after going to the site myself that the noise is disturbing and certainly carried to the home of the people who contacted me. I was also surprised at the ground area needed to facilitate the turbines, which includes a wide road cut into the woods. There needs to be more discussion on the placement of these structures and their effect not only on the environment but on the people who live close by.
The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission will develop guidelines for wind turbine development in wetland and watershed areas following the quarterly board meeting in Harrisburg. The commissioners agreed during the Oct. 1 meeting not only to develop guidelines but also send a letter to Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Kathleen A. McGinty concerning the matter, said Len Lichvar, the District 4 commissioner. "We need to develop a full-blown policy, especially in exceptional value watersheds and wetland areas. We're charged by legislature to protect the resources of the state," he said. ..."We're more concerned with predictive studies, not necessarily post-construction studies. ..."
Sensible Wind Solutions member Dr. Tom Dick - founder of the Allegheny Plateau Audubon Society - said state and federal legislators should have been regulating where the wind industry is allowed to place its turbines. That decision is left to individual municipalities, where leaders often have yet to encounter the wind industry. "To me, it is the same as strip mining," Dick said. "We were unregulated then, and now people are paying for it. Now, we are unregulated again."
A group fighting the Shaffer Mountain Wind Farm in Somerset and Bedford counties rallied Monday in the state Capitol for more-aggressive regulation of wind-energy companies. Laura Jackson, chairwoman of Save Our Allegheny Ridges, joined concerned citizens from nine counties, including Somerset, in Harrisburg to urge legislators to pass siting regulations for turbines. No state or federal guidelines are in place regarding where turbines can be located.