Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The Downside Of Wind Power -- Impacts On Birds & Bats

May 1: The House Natural Resources Committee, Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife and Oceans, Chaired by non-voting, Delegate Madeleine Bordallo (D-Guam), held an oversight hearing entitled, Gone with the Wind: Impacts of Wind Turbines on Birds and Bats. Witnesses testifying at the hearing included: Representative Alan Mollohan (D-WV); Dale Hall, Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS); Conservation Scientist, Bat Conservation International; Director, Birds and Pesticides, American Bird Conservancy; Partner, Meyer Glitzenstein and Crystal; and the Director of Conservation Policy, National Audubon Society.

Representative Mollohan testified that, "Wind-energy developers have targeted the mountain ridges of my state of West Virginia, and for a number of years I’ve expressed my deep concern about their projects. Among the reasons for my concern are the environmental impacts of these massive projects, including their impacts on the natural beauty of my state, and their impacts on wildlife." As an example he cited the Mountaineer project that consists of 44 turbines, each 340-feet high 50 feet higher than the tip of the Capitol) and spread out over 4,000 acres of mountain ridges.

FWS testified that while there are clear benefits to wind energy development, some facilities, particularly older facilities or those sited in areas with a high presence of birds and bats have the potential to cause deaths due to collisions, with unspecified long-term results. Dale Hall said the Service is focusing its efforts on determining ways to balance wildlife needs when wind energy facilities are sited and constructed. He discussed the publication of interim guidelines relating to siting and evaluating wind power development proposals and establishment of the Wind Turbine Guidelines Advisory Committee to provide advice and recommendations to the Secretary of the Interior on development of measures to avoid or minimize impacts from land-based facilities to wildlife and habitat.

Dr. Fry of the American Bird Conservancy testified that, "Unfortunately, to date, collaborative efforts to successfully address the impacts of wind projects on birds and wildlife have been a failure. He cited the Department of Energy's consensus-based collaborative in 1994, the National Wind Coordinating Collaborative (NWCC) and said his experience with NWCC has been that "there has been much discussion and almost no real action on the part of the wind industry to resolve bird collision issues at wind project areas." He said the wind energy industry has "rejected as either too costly or unproven techniques recommended by NWCC to reduce bird deaths... [and] Federal and state oversight for wind energy projects has been virtually nonexistent."

Attorney Eric Glitzenstein of Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal, which provides legal representation to non-profit environmental, conservation, and animal protection organizations and President of the Wildlife Advocacy Project testified on the current legal and regulatory framework that applies to the impact of wind turbines on wildlife. He said at present, there is "no comprehensive, effective federal system for avoiding, minimizing, and mitigating the effects of wind power projects on migratory birds, bats, and other wildlife." However he said, "...it is important to stress that wind power facilities, if properly sited, constructed, and monitored, can and should be a part of the answer to the global climate change crisis."

Access the hearing website for links to all testimony and opening statements (
click here). Access the Government Accountability Office (GAO) report entitled, Wind Power: Impacts on Wildlife and Government Responsibilities for Regulating Development and Protecting Wildlife (GAO-05-906, September 2005). [*Energy, *Wildlife]