BigWind fights against bird regulations in Ohio

The wind industry is pushing back hard against any regulations that might subject them to scrutiny in the killing of wildlife.  Ohio HB 490 that passed the House of Representatives is now in Senator Cliff Hite’s Agriculture Committee in the Senate.  Iberdrola testified in the House hearings and made numerous claims to assert the “benefits” of wind should outweigh wildlife impacts.  Interestingly, the Iberdrola witness said  “ODNR’s proposed amendment narrows the law’s applicability to only wind farms. If the intent of the amendment is to provide benefits to Ohio’s wild animals, then such a narrowing of the law’s applicability will only serve to drastically narrow suitable protections. “   The rebuttal comes from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources: .   “[Wind] is where we’re noticing the takes,” ODNR spokesman Bethany McCorkle said. “We have proven numbers.”   

 (Note: Senator Dave Burke Senate District 26  Crawford, Marion, Morrow, Sandusky, Seneca, Union, Wyandot serves on the Ag Committee as does Sen. Gayle Manning Senate District 13  Huron, Lorain.  All readers are encouraged to contact Sens. Hite, Burke and Manning in support of HB490.)

The ODNR spokesperson goes on to assert regulation of wind is reasonable: “ She said other energy industries face such permitting regulations, such as when stream pollution leads to a fish kill. The department would develop rules as to how the permitting fees would be applied, with the goal of encouraging wind farms to take steps to mitigate their impact on wildlife, such as changing the speed of turbines during bird migrating season, she said.”    

There are proposals to build wind turbines in the migratory flyways of Lake Erie.   There are proposals to add additional species to Ohio’s endangered and threatened species lists.   We note that bats, including the soon to be listed Northern Long Eared bat are mammals.   The wind industry acts like the use of the term “wild animal” means raccoons or flying coyotes in addition to sparrow and crows.  Once again, AWEA is trying to deflect attention from the real issue of threats to raptors, bats and migrating species.    We recall that Everpower asserted there were no endangered species bats in their Champaign County project area while Invenergy had simultaneously documented three maternal roost colonies.  When Everpower bought Invenergy’s assets and incorporated the Invenergy project into the Buckeye Wind project, they required Invenergy to destroy all records concerning the bats.  This made it difficult, if not impossible, for citizens to engage on this issue.  

Under the federal Endangered Species Act, wind companies must take the maximum feasible steps to protect listed species.  Everpower was required to submit a plan to “take” endangered Indiana bats but their proposal was less than the maximum and it was approved by the US Department of the Interior.  Everpower also proposed differing cut-in speeds for different turbines within the same project area.  Union Neighbors United, in cooperation with the Conservation Law Center at Indiana University, filed suit against the US DOI in August of 2013 in the US District Court of the District of Columbia.  That suit is still pending. But while it has been pending, more and more evidence is surfacing that wildlife kills are much greater than the wind industry has revealed.  (11/17/14 Wind energy firm sues to block bird death data release by Dina Cappiello, AP)  

And now what is the final irony?   Ten pro-environment US Senators wrote to the US EPA on Friday urging them to ban pesticides containing neonicotinoids, pest controls that have been linked to massive bee deaths.  They rightly argue that bees are essential to crop production and the economy.    Boston University has researched the significant  contributions of bats to avoided use of pesticides.  They conclude that the combination of wind turbines and white nose syndrome will result in increased pesticide use at a cost to farmers of $74 per crop acre.  That is $12 million annually in Champaign County alone.  If we protect the bats – all bats – from wind turbines, we will decrease the need for chemical pest controls that may be killing bees.   If neonicotinoids are banned and wind turbines have killed our bats, our farmers will suffer significant economic injury. In light of all of the above, the wind industry’s protests ring hollow….again….

Ohio’s fledgling wind energy industry is balking at a largely ignored provision of a massive environmental bill overwhelmingly approved in the House this week, arguing it is designed to throw one more wrench into its turbines.

The language would allow the state Department of Natural Resources to impose additional fees on wind farms based on the killing and injury, or “take,” of wild animals, a broad restriction the wind industry maintains would not be imposed on its competitors.

“No other state in the country has done that,” said Dayna Baird Payne, a lobbyist representing the American Wind Energy Association. “Some have done it for threatened and endangered species.”…

It’s laughable at best,” she said. “It’s certainly unfair. It’s like saying only drivers in purple cars need a ‘take’ permit when they run over a squirrel.”…

Wind power and environmental advocates see the provision as one more obstacle the state has thrown into the path of the development of wind farms in recent years.

A provision was enacted earlier this year that increased mandatory property setback distances for the siting of wind turbines. Mr. Kasich also signed into law a two-year halt on the state’s mandate that electric utilities find at least 25 percent of their power from renewable and advanced energy sources by 2025.

“[Wind] is where we’re noticing the takes,” ODNR spokesman Bethany McCorkle said. “We have proven numbers.”

She said other energy industries face such permitting regulations, such as when stream pollution leads to a fish kill.

The department would develop rules as to how the permitting fees would be applied, with the goal of encouraging wind farms to take steps to mitigate their impact on wildlife, such as changing the speed of turbines during bird migrating season, she said….

Wind energy industry protests bird-kill fine – Toledo Blade.

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