Articles filed under Impact on Wildlife from Pennsylvania
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.
[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."
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.
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."
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.
... wind power has recently come under attack by groups that say it will ruin undeveloped areas and threaten wildlife. ...The opposition from citizens groups follows a statement last week by the Pennsylvania Biological Survey, which said wind turbines must be "properly sited" or they could destroy birds and bats. The nonprofit survey group didn't see wind energy development as suitable on many state-owned lands "where natural resource conservation is a major goal," especially land owned by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
... because wind energy development has associated environmental costs, wind energy development should only be instituted on state lands if the environmental benefits can be demonstrated to exceed the environmental costs. ... The environmental benefits of wind energy development, in the mid-Atlantic area in general and on Pennsylvania state lands in particular, are small relative to the negative consequences, which include habitat fragmentation and mortality to birds and bats.
"Common sense dictates that erecting wind turbines in the path of migrating birds puts the birds at greater risk, and frankly, we are stupefied that the proponents of this project can't see that and are clinging stubbornly to their plan", Ciarlante said. Thousands of migrating raptors including American Bald Eagles, Eastern Golden Eagles and Hawks transit the Shaffer Mountain ridge every spring and fall and would be put at great risk by the whirling blades of the GAMESA wind turbines.
A Press Conference has been scheduled for 12 noon on Monday September 17, 2007 in the rotunda of the Capitol in Harrisburg to protest the statewide push by the Rendell Administration to turn hundreds of miles of Pennsylvania's forested ridge tops into industrial wind facilities. Groups from across the state will be addressing the various concerns that wind power facilities pose to Pennsylvania's wild areas, wildlife, tourism, historical resources, and viewscapes.
The National Academy of Sciences concluded that long-term research is needed on the ecological impacts of wind turbines prior to their establishment on mid-Atlantic ridges. The academy recommended a minimum of three years for impact studies and that the results be made available for public and scientific scrutiny. Full results of industry-funded research at the Shaffer Mountain site are kept under lock and key and are therefore of dubious scientific value. ... The most reasonable compromise for the state Department of Environmental Protection and the state game commission is to place a moratorium on wind-turbine development in biologically important sites until the environmental impacts are fully understood.
Opposition to the Shaffer Mountain project turns on the old Realtor's mantra of "location, location, location." The wind turbines would be built near the Bedford County line and in the watershed of Piney Run and Clear Shade Creek, two of the state's 28 exceptional value streams -- a designation reserved for creeks with the highest water quality and biological diversity. ... The project [..] also raises hard questions for environmentalists and regulators about the expected expansion of wind-power projects and the need to balance their benefits against potential environmental harm.