Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Wind industry group opposes federal guidelines to protect birds

The American Wind Energy Association Industry said it will oppose plans by a federal agency to adopt voluntary regulations on wind developers to protect birds and other wildlife.

AWEA said in a release that more than 34,000 MW of potential wind power development, $68 billion in investment and 27,000 jobs are at risk due to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service policies on golden eagles.

"Those numbers are expected to grow exponentially with analysis of the full scope of the proposed guidelines," AWEA said.

Two Fish and Wildlife Service documents offer guidelines for utility-scale and community-scale wind energy facilities to, according to the agency, "avoid and minimize" negative impacts to fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats.

"Draft Voluntary, Land-Based Wind Energy Guidelines" was developed for industry to avoid and minimize impacts to federally protected migratory birds and bats and other impacted wildlife resulting from site selection, construction, operation and maintenance of land-based, wind energy facilities. The Fish and Wildlife Service also developed peer-reviewed "Draft Eagle Conservation Plan Guidance" for wind project developers and employees who must evaluate impacts from proposed wind energy projects to eagles protected by the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and other federal laws.

AWEA said it cannot support either document even though it participated for more than two years in a public, collaborative Federal Advisory Committee process. AWEA said the process resulted in consensus recommendations on wind turbine siting that wind energy developers broadly supported.

AWEA said in a release "Unfortunately, the guidance released deviates significantly from the consensus recommendations." Among other problems with the guidance as released, it could:

Delay construction of projects by up to three years and require operating projects to retroactively conduct post-construction wildlife studies for a minimum of two and as much as five years, adding unforeseen costs to the operating budgets of these facilities.
Require "adaptive management", which could include operational changes, such as shutting off turbines at certain times of the year, which will add further unquantifiable costs to even projects already permitted and operating.
Request analysis on wildlife-based sound impacts without any peer-reviewed scientific evidence that sound related to the construction and operation of wind farms has the potential to impact wildlife.
"Greatly expand" applicability under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to projects built on private lands, adding time and costs to developing wind projects, when there is no federal staff to perform this "vastly increased amount of administrative work."

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