Resource Documents: West Virginia (26 items)
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Author: Webb, Rick
Ms. Laura Hill, Assistant Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, West Virginia Field Office
September 21, 2010
RE: Preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement for Issuance of an Incidental Take Permit and Associated Habitat Conservation Plan for the Invenergy Beech Ridge Wind Energy Project, Greenbrier and Nicholas Counties, WV
Dear Ms. Hill:
I appreciate the opportunity to comment on the content of National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review related to the Invenergy Beech Ridge Wind Energy Project.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) NEPA review process provides perhaps the first opportunity for objective and rigorous analysis of the costs and benefits associated with utility-scale ridgeline wind energy development in the central Appalachian region. I was a committee member and co-author of the National Resource Council (NRC) 2007 report, Environmental Impacts of Wind Energy Projects, which focused on the Mid-Atlantic Highlands (www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=11935) . I am thus well aware of the limitations of current information, analysis, and regulatory review, and I am deeply concerned about the potential for significant environmental impacts associated with this type of development in this region.
Although a long list of issues and recommendations can and should be compiled related to the Beech Ridge project, my comments here focus on two broadly encompassing issues, evaluation of cumulative impacts and evaluation of benefits. These issues apply to USFWS decisions concerning the individual project and to the consequences of the precedent that will be established for wind energy development in the region.
Evaluation of Cumulative Impacts
As evidenced by multiple letters concerning wind energy projects, the USFWS is fully aware of the need to address the cumulative environmental impacts of wind energy development in the central Appalachian region. These letters, several of which are provided here as attachments, express concerns about cumulative regional impacts associated with direct harm to bats and birds, including endangered and protected species, as well as general habitat degradation due to forest fragmentation resulting from construction of turbines, roads, and transmission corridors.
The 2007 NRC report took a step toward quantifying potential turbine-caused bat and bird mortality associated with central Appalachian region (mountain areas of MD, PA, WV, and VA) wind energy development based both on (1) the record of bird and bat mortality at existing wind projects in the region and (2) on projected additional wind project development in the region.
The NRC committee found (based on projections for development and on projects listed in the grid interconnection queue):
- The number of bats killed per year will be 33, 017 to 119,665.
- The number of birds killed per year will be 5,895 to 44,999.
- There is insufficient information to assess potential population impacts on birds.
- The potential for impacts on bat populations appears significant.
- Additional impacts to wildlife will occur due to habitat alteration.
The estimates for bird and bat mortality should be viewed as conservative, as they were based on projections for future wind development that should now be recognized as low. In addition, the prognosis for sustainability of bat species is now even more dire due to the emergence of white nose syndrome.
It would be contrary to the clear intent of the Endangered Species Act, NEPA, and the mission of the USFWS to ignore the actual harm to bats, birds, and other wildlife by basing decisions about an individual project as if the impacts of that project occur in isolation from the cumulative impact of expected regional-scale development.
Evaluation of Benefits
The NEPA review process requires consideration of alternatives, including the alternative of not building a project. In the Invenergy Beech Ridge case, the USFWS must decide whether the benefits of the project outweigh the environmental costs, or more appropriately, whether the benefits of utility-scale wind energy development in the central Appalachian region outweigh the costs.
The 2007 NRC report again took a step toward this evaluation by estimating the potential benefits of wind energy development in terms electricity supply and air quality improvement.
The NRC committee found (based on U.S. Department of Energy Projections for 2020):
- Wind energy development will equal 2 to 7% of U.S. installed generation capacity, but only 1.2 to 4.5% of actual U.S. generation (less than installed capacity due to the intermittency of wind).
- Wind power development will provide no reduction in nitrogen and sulfur emissions in the eastern U.S. – because these pollutants associated with acid rain and ozone formation are regulated by emissions caps.
- Wind power development will offset emissions of carbon dioxide by 0.5 to 1.8% from the levels of emissions that would otherwise occur from energy use.
Although these findings indicate that projected wind energy development will provide only minimal benefits, it should be noted that the estimated benefits are based on national-scale analysis and projections. As indicated in the 2007 NRC report, the density of the wind resource in the Mid-Atlantic Highlands is substantially less than in most other U.S. wind-development areas, and thus the benefits will be less than for the country as a whole.
Although the 2007 NRC report indicates that benefits of wind energy development will be minimal in terms of air quality improvement, a number of recent reports have suggested that wind energy development will actually have the effect of increasing carbon emissions (e.g., //docs.wind-watch.org/BENTEK-How-Less-Became-More.pdf). The argument is made that due to the intermittency and unpredictability of wind power, especially during peak-demand periods (e.g., late-summer afternoons), the need for readily available backup power requires inefficient operation of fossil-fuel generators, and results in a net increase in carbon emissions. The validity of this argument is difficult to determine. Although wind developers may claim benefits with respect to reduced carbon emissions, they deny access to the information required for objective verification.
In the present Invenergy Beech Ridge case, the USFWS should reasonably expect Invenergy, which operates multiple wind projects in the U.S., to provide the data necessary to support any claims made concerning benefits, including reduction in carbon emissions. This is simply the level of transparency that should be required for any objective regulatory review or scientific analysis. Qualitative arguments or unverified assertions should not be accepted.
Finally, the USFWS needs to ensure that any contractors or consultants it employs to conduct the required NEPA review are fully qualified to perform the needed analysis. Moreover, all data, analysis, and models used by the contractor or USFWS in conducting the NEPA review should be made available, without exception, for public review.
I look forward to your responses to my comments.
Download original document: “Preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement for Issuance of an Incidental Take Permit and Associated Habitat Conservation Plan for the Invenergy Beech Ridge Wind Energy Project”
[By courtesy of Allegheny Treasures]
Author: Eubanks, William; and Glitzenstein, Eric
Ms. Laura Hill, Assistant Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, West Virginia Field Office
September 13, 2010
RE: Scoping Comments On The Fish And Wildlife Service’s Consideration Of An Incidental Take Permit And Habitat Conservation Plan For The Beech Ridge Wind Project
We are writing on behalf of the Animal Welfare Institute (“AWI”) and David G. Cowan with regard to the construction and operation of turbines at the Beech Ridge wind energy facility (the “project”) in Greenbrier and Nicholas Counties, West Virginia. More specifically, we are writing to submit comments to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (“FWS” or “Service”) on the scoping process that FWS is undertaking in connection with its preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement (“EIS”) analyzing the significant environmental impacts of the Beech Ridge project under the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 4321-4370.
As a preliminary matter, AWI and Mr. Cowan respectfully urge the Service to conduct its review under NEPA with respect to the entire Beech Ridge wind facility’s impacts on wildlife, including any already operating turbines, as well as all aspects of the project including turbines, transmission lines, substations, roads, transformers, and any other related invasive infrastructure that did not exist prior to Beech Ridge Energy’s acquisition of the land on which this project is located. Likewise, alternative means of accomplishing the project purposes with fewer wildlife impacts – a critical part of the NEPA analysis – should be considered for all phases of the project. The alternatives analysis should be based on extensive on-site (and potentially off-site) surveying (mist netting, acoustic monitoring, spring emergence studies, etc.), and should consider, among other things, post-construction monitoring, adaptive management techniques, and alternate turbine locations within the project’s boundaries that would result in less significant wildlife and environmental impacts.
I. NEPA Requires That The Service Consider All Direct, Indirect, and Cumulative Impacts of the Beech Ridge Wind Project.
In undertaking its NEPA review, the Service must analyze all direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts on wildlife. See, e.g., 42 U.S.C. § 4332(2)(c); TOMAC v. Norton, 433 F.3d 852 (D.C. Cir. 2006). Direct effects “are caused by the action and occur at the same time and place.” 40 C.F.R. § 1508.8(a). Indirect effects “are caused by the action and are later in time or farther removed in distance, but are still reasonably foreseeable.” Id. §1508.8(b). Cumulative impacts are “impact[s] on the environment which result[ from the incremental impact of the action when added to other past, present, and reasonably foreseeable future actions regardless of what agency (Federal or non-Federal) or person undertakes such other actions … [and] can result from individually minor but collectively significant actions taking place over a period of time.” Id. §1508.7.
Direct wildlife impacts implicated by the Beech Ridge wind project include significant impacts to various unlisted bat species (Hoary bat, Eastern red bat, Silver-haired bat, Tri-colored bat, Big brown bat, Little brown bat, Eastern small-footed bat, and Northern long-eared bat) because of the well-documented mortality of bats due to turbine collision and barotrauma. In addition to unlisted species, there is particular concern here about direct impacts to federally endangered Indiana bats, whose presence on the project site has been confirmed through acoustic data, see, e.g., 675 F. Supp. 2d 540, and there might be similar impacts to federally endangered Virginia big-eared bats (which could be determined through rigorous on-site monitoring). Special emphasis should be placed on the Beech Ridge project’s effects on cave-dwelling species, including Indiana bats and little brown bats, because of the precipitous decline in their population numbers due to White Nose Syndrome (“WNS”). See, e.g., Frick, et al., An Emerging Disease Causes Regional Population Collapse of a Common North American Bat Species, SCIENCE, Vol. 329, pp. 679-82 (Aug. 6, 2010). It should also be noted that a petition has been submitted to list the Eastern small-footed bat and the Northern long-eared bat under the ESA, which might have some impact on the Service’s analysis of bat impacts here. See Center for Biological Diversity (Jan. 21, 2010), http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/campaigns/bat_crisis_white-nose_syndrome/pdfs/petition-My otisleibii-Myotisseptentrionalis.pdf.
Further, there is much evidence in the scientific literature indicating that birds, and particularly eagles and other raptors, are killed and otherwise harmed by wind turbines. If surveys or historical FWS or WVDNR records indicate presence of such bird species on this project site, the direct and indirect impacts implicated by the project must be analyzed in the Service’s NEPA documentation. In addition, assuming evidence indicates the presence of bird species on the project site, the Service should analyze in its NEPA review compliance with other environmental statutes under its jurisdiction – including the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.
Not only should direct impacts to all bat (and bird) species residing in this area be considered and analyzed in an EIS, but so too should the impacts to their habitat that is critical to proper ecosystem functioning and species survival by avoiding disruption of essential biological behaviors. Within the project footprint, for example, many acres of forested habitat were cleared to make way for the project’s turbines, roads, and related infrastructure – activities that likely impacted (and still impact) bats and birds in the area through adverse modification and fragmentation.
In addition to direct and indirect effects, there exist significant cumulative impacts with respect to the Beech Ridge wind project that must be evaluated thoroughly in an EIS. Most importantly, the Service should analyze the cumulative impacts of the Beech Ridge wind project on bats and migratory birds when viewed in conjunction with all other existing and planned wind projects in the eastern United States, and particularly in the Appalachian corridor. There are currently hundreds of wind projects operating in this region, and many more planned for construction, but the net effect of the rapid proliferation of wind energy in this region (which undisputedly has the highest turbine-bat mortality in the nation) is manifest in a daunting gauntlet of wind turbines that bats, birds, and other migratory species must traverse each year during spring and fall migration. This ever-more-difficult migration path poses grave risks to bat and bird populations, and such a significant impact must be analyzed and mitigated here – particularly considering that the estimated bat mortality predicted by the developer’s own consultant was the highest estimate for any wind project ever proposed in the United States.
Other cumulative impacts that must necessarily be evaluated as part of the Beech Ridge EIS include non-wind energy projects (e.g., timber projects, strip mines, residential or commercial development, etc.) in the region that impact bats, birds, and other Beech Ridge- affected wildlife, and the effects of those projects on wildlife and species habitat. Additionally, with respect to bats, WNS and its devastating effects must be thoroughly considered in evaluating the level of acceptable take for any listed bat species affected by the disease to ensure that species jeopardy is not likely to occur under the emergency WNS circumstances. This is of particular concern because WNS-affected bats are much more susceptible to turbine collisions and barotrauma due to compromised flying ability and increased fatigue. The effects of WNS, in conjunction with an array of wind turbines throughout the region, could have devastating effects on local and regional bat populations, and thus effective mitigation of these impacts is crucial.
II. Alternatives, Monitoring, and Mitigation Measures
NEPA requires the Service to “rigorously and objectively evaluate all reasonable alternatives” to the proposed action, and the alternatives analysis is considered the “heart of the environmental impact statement.” 40 C.F.R. § 1502.14. In addition, the EIS should “[i]nclude appropriate mitigation measures not already included in the proposed action or alternatives.” Id. § 1502.14(f).
The Service has indicated that “[t]he alternatives to be considered for analysis in the EIS may include: Variations in the scope of covered activities; variations in curtailment of wind turbine operations; variations in the location, amount, and type of conservation; variations in permit duration; variations in monitoring the effectiveness of permit conditions; or a combination of these elements. We will consider other reasonable project alternatives recommended during this scoping process in order to develop a full range of alternatives.” 75 Fed. Reg. 47267, 47269.
AWI and Mr. Cowan concur with the Service that all of these proposed variations and alternatives should be considered in the EIS. Indeed, AWI and Mr. Cowan provided preliminary comments to the Service on May 19, 2010 related to many of these topics (monitoring, conservation, etc.), and will again include these comments as part of this letter. See Attachment 1. The comments were created in conjunction with leading bat biologists and the comments incorporate the best available science in the field of bat biology and ecology (as of late May 2010). That attachment is hereby incorporated by reference as part of these scoping comments.
Specifically, in addition to the alternatives identified by the Service in the Federal Register notice, AWI and Mr. Cowan urge the Service to analyze the implementation of rigorous and independent bat and bird presence monitoring using technologies including acoustic detection (AnaBat), mist netting, springtime emergence studies, and other tools for detecting presence of bats, birds, and other species on the project site. Such surveys and studies would necessarily inform the Service’s decisionmaking on an ITP/HCP, and would ensure that all environmental impacts and reasonable alternatives are considered in an EIS. Also, pre- construction monitoring is essential for adequately identifying where on the project site the highest levels of bat and bird presence occur in order to minimize risks to wildlife.
Moreover, various adaptive management and post-construction monitoring regimes should be analyzed in the alternatives section of the EIS, and ultimately adopted to minimize and mitigate the impact of expected takes. As our May 19 comments highlight, there are various wildlife-protective mechanisms – including, but not limited to, curtailment of turbines during migration periods, the application of different cut-in speeds than those that would otherwise be used, and the implementation of time-of-year and/or time-of-day turbine operational restrictions (similar to those imposed by Judge Titus), etc. – that must be considered in minimizing the impacts to listed and unlisted bats, birds, and other wildlife species in the area.
Not only are such timing restrictions and other minimization and mitigation measures expressly contemplated in the Congressional mandate for ITPs under the ESA, see 16 U.S.C. §§ 1539(a)(2)(A)(ii), (iv), but they are also an important part of the NEPA process. E.g., 40 C.F.R. § 1505.3 (explaining that “[m]itigation and other conditions established in the [EIS] … shall be implemented by the lead agency … [as] appropriate conditions in grants, permits or other approvals”). Accordingly, the EIS should consider appropriate mitigation measures – based on scientifically defensible and independently created protocols – to minimize the risk of harm to bats, birds, and other wildlife in the region. The Service should also analyze other means of offsetting unavoidable impacts, including but not limited to funding research on WNS and purchasing and protecting important off-site bat habitat.
Please let us know if you have any questions about the comments provided herein. We look forward to continuing to work with the Service and the permit applicant in a cooperative and collaborative manner throughout this process.
William S. Eubanks II
Eric R. Glitzenstein
Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal, Washington, DC
May 19, 2010
Re: The Incidental Take Permit Process For The Beech Ridge Wind Project
Dear Mr. Groberg and Ms. Hill:
Pursuant to the parties’ January 26, 2010 Stipulation, which provides that Plaintiffs Animal Welfare Institute (“AWI”) and David Cowan may participate in the Incidental Take Permit/Habitat Conservation Plan process (“ITP process”), and that “they will use best efforts to play a constructive, cooperative role in the [p]rocess by making their views on pertinent issues (e.g., monitoring, adaptive management) known to Defendants and/or the Service as early in the ITP Process as practicable,” Stipulation ¶ 7, we are providing the following initial views on behalf of AWI and Mr. Cowan. These are preliminary comments on primary issues of concern that Plaintiffs believe should be considered by the Service in processing any ITP/HCP application for the Beech Ridge Wind Project. They were developed in consultation with the bat experts who testified at the trial in this case, and are based on the best available science known at this time.
The Following Pre-ITP/HCP Surveys Should Be Conducted To Determine Bat Concentrations On The Project Site.
A minimum of one full year (spring, summer, and fall) of surveys should be conducted on the project site to determine a baseline of bat activity;
- Surveys should incorporate appropriate technologies, including mist netting, acoustic detection, and springtime emergence radiotracking from nearby hibernacula;
- Such technologies should be deployed in all available habitats to analyze habitat use;
- If Indiana bat roost trees are located on the project site, such trees should be monitored for one year to determine the extent of Indiana bat use of those trees;
- Such surveys should be conducted by, or at a minimum should incorporate, independent scientists not retained as full-time environmental consultants.
The Following Monitoring And Carcass Searches Should Be Implemented During The ITP/HCP Process.
Beech Ridge Energy should conduct regular bird and bat carcass searches;
- Searches should be conducted on at least 50% of currently operating turbines to ensure an adequate sample size;
- Searches should be conducted on selected turbines at least every four days, but searches should be conducted at least every two days during the fall migration period when more deaths are known to occur;
- An appropriate carcass removal/predation study should be conducted to determine the number of bird and bat carcasses removed by terrestrial and avian predators;
- If any bat carcasses are found, they should be sent for external identification by Craig Stihler or similar qualified independent bat biologist;
- If any bird carcasses are found, they should be positively identified by a qualified ornithologist or institution (e.g., West Virginia Department of Natural Resources).
If FWS Concludes That The Level Of Take Will Not Jeopardize The Species, The Following Conservation Measures Should Be Implemented To Offset Takes In An HCP.
Beech Ridge Energy should provide adequate funding to qualified scientists and/or academic institutions to research white-nose syndrome (“WNS”) and to study how WNS in combination with wind turbine mortalities impacts bat population health, viability, dynamics, survival, and recovery potential;
Beech Ridge Energy should lease and/or purchase property near local Indiana bat hibernacula and plant potential roost trees to provide bats with alternate habitat that may reduce the use of roost trees at the project site and nearer the operational turbines;
Beech Ridge should purchase existing property that contains appropriate roost trees and, through conservation easements or similar instruments, ensure that such habitat is protected in perpetuity (at least until the project is no longer operational);
Any other conservation measures that may be appropriate and/or that are recommended by the Service and/or independent and qualified bat experts to offset anticipated Indiana bat deaths and injuries should be considered.
If FWS Concludes That The Level Of Take Will Not Jeopardize The Species, The Following Post-ITP Monitoring and Carcass Searches Should Be Implemented.
The ITP should require a minimum of three years of post-ITP monitoring, with the possibility of extending such monitoring, depending on the number of documented bird and bat deaths, and, in particular, Indiana bat deaths;
- Carcass searches should occur on at least 50% of operating turbines;
- In Year 1, carcass searches should occur at least every three days, reduced to daily searches during fall migration, unless the previously conducted carcass removal/predation study indicates that more frequent searches are necessary;
- After Year 1, a searcher efficiency should be established based on Year 1 data, and a per-species mortality estimate should be determined (triggering adaptive management regimes if mortality rates meet or exceed levels set in the ITP);
- Areas immediately adjacent to turbines should either be planted in short grass, or covered with gravel, making carcass identification more feasible;
- Turbines selected in Year 1 should, to the extent practicable, come from different areas and turbine lines within the project;
- Carcass searches will continue in Years 2-3, but the sample size and frequency should be dependent on the findings of Year 1 and on the carcass removal/predation study previously conducted;
- Because bats move frequently, a selected turbine in a given year should be monitored for that entire year because of geographical movement;
- If any bat carcasses are found, they should be sent for external identification by Craig Stihler of the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources or similar qualified independent bat biologist, and if any bird carcasses are found, including birds potentially protected under the ESA or the MBTA, such carcasses should be positively identified by a qualified ornithologist.
If An ITP Is Granted, It Should Contain The Following Post-ITP Operational Constraints.
An appropriate cut-in speed, to be determined based on the best available peer-reviewed scientific evidence, should be implemented in spring, summer, and fall during nighttime hours to minimize bat mortalities.
If An ITP Is Granted, It Should Require The Following Post-ITP Adaptive Management Measures.
In the event that Beech Ridge Energy exceeds the incidental take number authorized by the Service in an ITP, if granted, or in the event of unreasonably high bat or bird mortality in general, Beech Ridge Energy should be required to implement further operational constraints to reduce bat and bird mortality (i.e., curtailing all operation during nighttime hours in the fall migration period, adjusting operational times and turbine speed during bat and bird migrations, or modifying cut-in speed as recommended above).
We look forward to working cooperatively with both Beech Ridge Energy and the Service in creating an ITP/HCP that meets the statutory muster of the Endangered Species Act, while also allowing the production of renewable energy in Greenbrier County to move forward in a sustainable and responsible manner. Please let us know if you would like to discuss these recommendations, or the basis for them, at you convenience.
William S. Eubanks II
Eric R. Glitzenstein
Counsel for Plaintiffs Animal Welfare Institute and David Cowan
Author: Dodds, Pamela; and Dodds, Arthur
Subject: Preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement for Issuance of an Incidental Take Permit and Associated Habitat Conservation Plan for the Beech Ridge Wind Energy Project, Greenbrier and Nicholas Counties, WV
Dear Ms. Hill [Laura Hill, Assistant Field Supervisor, West Virginia Field Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service]: The list below is incorporated as part of this document and provides critical information for issues to be considered as part of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the subject project. The cumulative negative impacts resulting from this project clearly indicate that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) must decide that irreparable environmental damage will result if this project is constructed. FWS must reconsider the contractor selected to conduct the EIS: Stantec Consulting Services, Inc. is an inappropriate environmental firm for conducting the EIS. …
INDUSTRIAL SCALE WIND TURBINES SHOULD NOT BE BUILT AT THE PROPOSED BEECH RIDGE PROJECT SITE BECAUSE THE SITE IS MOSTLY WITHIN THE MONONGAHELA FOREST PROCLAMATION BOUNDARY
The 2007 Monongahela National Forest (MNF) Map produced by the U.S. Forest Service (FS) provides clear boundaries of the Mon Forest. The map includes “proclamation boundaries”, defined in the 2006 EIS for the MNF as the boundary “within which parcels of land could be purchased to increase the size and benefits of the Forest.” Areas of privately owned land within the proclamation boundary are therefore considered to be of great ecological importance: “The affected area for cumulative effects will include private land within the Forest proclamation boundary. This expanded area will facilitate a discussion of how other activities on Forest land may affect soil erosion and sedimentation both on and off the Forest, and how activities off the Forest may have a cumulative influence on forest soils.” Applicable management prescriptions include habitat protection for the endangered Indiana Bats and Virginia Big-eared Bats, cerulean warblers, and Bald Eagles as well as protection of watersheds. Watershed protection prescriptions include “… buffers of 100 feet on perennial and large intermittent streams, 50 feet on small intermittent streams, and 25 feet on ephemeral streams. Within these buffers, all programmed timber harvest and all but essential soil disturbance (e.g., road crossings) is prohibited… Protecting the headwater streams on the Forest is important for protecting water supplies for many West Virginians.”
The 2006 MNF EIS was completed without knowledge of the Beech Ridge wind project location inside the proclamation boundary. It is critical that the FWS EIS managers coordinate with the MNF personnel regarding the available MNF data and management prescriptions. Based on the MNF management criteria, the Beech Ridge wind project should not be constructed.
STANTEC CONSULTING SERVICES, INC. PROVIDED INADEQUATE AND MISREPRESENTATIVE BAT DATA FOR THE AES LAUREL MOUNTAIN WIND PROJECT AND SHOULD NOT CONDUCT THE FWS EIS
Stantec Consulting Services, Inc. (Stantec) conducted the “Avian and Bat Survey Reports and Risk Assessment” for the AES Laurel Mountain wind project. In June, 2008, Dr. Michael R. Gannon provided testimony to the West Virginia Public Service Commission (PSC) in the AES Laurel Mountain wind project (Case Number 08-0109-E-CS). Dr. Gannon is recognized as a specialist in bat ecology with over 20 years experience studying bats. He has published over 30 peer-reviewed publications on bats and bat ecology, including four book chapters, and he is the senior author on a Smithsonian book about bats. Dr. Gannon has conducted numerous monitoring studies, specifically on endangered bat species. In his testimony to the PSC concerning the Stantec reports, Dr. Gannon pointed out that the mist net surveys were reported to have “followed USFWS Indiana bat recovery plan guidelines (USFWS, 2007); however, they deviated from this protocol in several ways. First, Indiana bat guidelines specifically require all Indiana bat surveys to be conducted between the dates of May 15 and August 15 (see Appendix 5 of the protocol– Mist net guidelines), insuring that surveys will be searching for bats while they are at their summer residence. Of the three surveys, only one, the June survey, occurred completely within the designated time frame. Only two days of the May survey and no days of the September survey were within the approved timeframe. This results in only 16 days total for all surveys being performed during the designated period for Indiana bat searches. Therefore, any conclusions about the absence of Indiana bats based on the May and September surveys are invalid. This leaves only a 14-day period in June that was surveyed during the approved period.” Additionally, “only 52 net nights of survey (June survey) were performed for the entire Laurel Mountain ridge for the purpose of detecting Indiana bats. The Indiana bat recovery protocol gives no requirements for netting effort for any surveys, but it does describe a minimal level of effort acceptable under the Federal Indiana Bat Recovery guidelines (USFWS, 2007) … For a study to be well designed, each site must be thoroughly assessed and optimal netting effort should be the level of effort utilized, rather than minimal.” Concerning the radar study: “… only one site was surveyed via radar and the results from this one location are presented as representative of the entire mountaintop study area. All 20 nights of radar work were done at the met tower during only a portion of one summer. One location sampled over and over is hardly a good design, and such sampling is hardly representative of all the bat or bird activity on the entire mountaintop.” Further, Dr. Gannon stated that, “The Stantec radar study talks about passage rates as targets per kilometer per hour. Unfortunately, radar cannot distinguish between the types of animals being tracked (bat or bird). This technology is incapable of determining whether those “targets” are a single individual or a group traveling together. Therefore, the term “target” is an unknown number of individuals or species. The data generated by this technique have severe limitations, and should be interpreted carefully and conservatively. In fact, using such data beyond a gauge of basic nocturnal vertebrate activity would be highly questionable, and insufficient if used for any other purpose.” Dr. Gannon noted problems with the spring celiometer study, as well, stating, “the authors’ claim that they can tell bats from birds, in flight, by using these celiometer observations at night, at heights of 130m (height of the turbines) or more, is highly suspect. It is not surprising that they reported observing only two bats using this method during the entire study.” The location of caves and mine openings for bat study on Laurel Mountain was limited to a 5-mile radius. However, Dr. Gannon pointed out that that this is inadequate, “There are numerous caves within a 50-mile radius of Laurel Mountain containing bats that can quite easily travel the distance, and be present on the development site. This includes both endangered Indiana bats and Virginia big-eared bats.” Additionally, even though there were substantial bat call sequences recorded during the acoustic survey, including over half of the calls being potentially those of endangered bat species, Stantec did not conduct additional studies to provide more conclusive data.
Stantec has demonstrated in its bat study for AES Laurel Mountain the same type of inadequate and misrepresentative data as provided by BHE in the Beech Ridge case. Therefore, Stantec is an inappropriate consulting firm to prepare an EIS for FWS, especially concerning bat data. If Stantec is still allowed to prepare the EIS, it is essential that all their work must be peer reviewed by reputable scientists.
WATERSHEDS IMPACTED BY THE PROPOSED BEECH RIDGE PROJECT ARE NOT PROTECTED BY WEST VIRGINIA NPDES PERMITS
The EPA incorporated requirements for delineating watersheds and calculating stormwater discharge from construction sites as part of the NPDES permitting process. However, there are basic deficiencies in the requirements considered by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), authorized by the EPA to issue NPDES permits. Specifically, DEP personnel are misinterpreting the definition of a watershed for purposes of evaluating stormwater discharge calculations. All hydrology textbooks, as well as hydrology calculation manuals provided by the EPA, the NRDC, the USFWS, the USFS, and the various state Departments of Transportation identify the watershed to include the area which drains into a receiving stream, including the areas downgradient of the project site. Stormwater calculations are supposed to incorporate representative runoff coefficients based on the variable soils groups present within the watershed. A project may have several stormwater culverts draining toward a receiving stream within a watershed which will greatly increase the amount and velocity of stormwater entering the receiving stream. Even if there is no sediment at the discharge point (that is, the stormwater culvert), the greater amount and velocity of stormwater will cause streambank erosion and, consequently, sedimentation downstream. Rather than using this approach to understand the impacts of the stormwater discharge from construction sites, the DEP is only requiring delineation of the “watershed” area that drains to a stormwater discharge culvert. By doing this, they ignore the overall impact of stormwater issuing toward a stream from more than one stormwater discharge culvert and they ignore the additional downgradient construction stormwater runoff from areas between the discharge culvert locations. Numerous EPA documents and hydrologic studies refer to the article written by T. Schueler for the Center for Watershed Protection, entitled “The Importance of Imperviousness” (Watershed Protection Techniques, 1(3): 100-111). The basic premise documented in the article is that stream degradation occurs at relatively low (approximately 10%) levels of imperviousness. The conclusions presented in the article also address the negative impacts to aquatic headwater organisms where stormwater is great enough to cause streambank erosion. Greater streambank erosion causes increased sedimentation in headwater streams, resulting in the loss of good-water-quality species (stoneflies, mayflies, and caddisflies) that shred leaf litter, graze rock surfaces, and filter organic matter. These aquatic species form the base of the food chain. If NPDES permits do not require evaluation of the receiving stream watershed, especially headwater streams, the permit is useless for protecting our water resources.
In addition to the negative impacts of greater sedimentation due to streambank erosion caused by greater stormwater discharge, a rise in water temperature also results from increased stormwater discharge into headwater streams. Deforestation in headwater areas causes an even greater rise in temperature because the amount of shade required by the aquatic headwater organisms is reduced. Trout are particularly sensitive to sedimentation and temperature changes. Deforestation also obviously results in decreased groundwater recharge, causing reduced base flows to supplement stream water in times of drought.
Construction of the wind turbines designated as “B”, “E”, “J”, and most of the “G” series will direct construction stormwater toward tributaries of South Fork and Laurel Creek, both within the MNF proclamation boundary. These streams are tributaries to Cherry River, which is within the MNF boundary and which flows into the Gauley River where it is within the MNF boundary. The Cherry River (within the Gauley watershed) is listed as a trout stream on the 2010 Draft West Virginia 303(d) List, impacted by iron exceedences. Iron is a typical contaminant associated with construction stormwater runoff.
CUMULATIVE BAT MORTALITY CONSIDERATIONS MUST INCLUDE BAT MORTALITY DUE TO WHITE-NOSE SYNDROME
Cumulative impacts to unlisted bats are also occurring with the continuation of White-Nose Syndrome, which has killed over one million bats (http://www.fws.gov/WhiteNoseSyndrome/). Paul Cryan (USGS) has reported that male bats are predominantly killed by industrial scale wind turbines. The mating behavior of male bats includes seeking the highest tree. The bats perceive the wind turbine as the highest tree and are slaughtered on their ascent to the top. The cumulative impacts of mortality by wind turbines, combined with the mortality by White-Nose Syndrome causes concern that entire species may become extinct, including those not currently listed as endangered.
Pamela C. Dodds, Ph.D., Registered Professional Geologist; Master Naturalist, WV
Arthur W. Dodds, Jr., President Laurel Mountain Preservation Association; Master Naturalist, WV
Download original document: “Pamela and Arthur Dodds’ Comments on Preparation of EIS for Beech Ridge Wind Energy Project”
Evaluation of Robert Kennedy Jr’s Statements in West Virginia about Wind Energy: Deluded, Delusional, or Dishonest?
Author: Schleede, Glenn
Attachment A [to this paper] lists quotes from Robert Kennedy, Jr. concerning wind energy, as those quotes appear in the transcript of a Forum on the Future of Energy on January 21, 2010, at the University of Charleston, West Virginia.
During the Forum, Mr. Kennedy made many statements about wind energy that are false or misleading and should not be allowed to stand without challenge.
It’s unclear from the transcript whether Mr. Kennedy has been misled by the wind industry, whether he really believes all that he said about wind energy, or whether he was merely hoping that no one listening to the forum or reading the transcript would challenge his false and misleading claims. …
1. Employment in the wind industry compared to employment in coal mining.
2. Mr. Kennedy’s false comparison of wind turbines with reliable electric generating units.
3. Mr. Kennedy’s false claims about china’s plans for building “wind farms.”
4. Mr. Kennedy’s misleading claims about the cost of building “wind farms” vs. cost of building coal-fired plants.
5. Mr. Kennedy’s false depiction of the us as “the Saudi Arabia of wind.”
6. Mr. Kennedy’s false claims about the cost of eliminating and replacing us electric generating units using carbon-based fuels.
7. Wind turbines and “wind farms” are not as popular as Mr. Kennedy implies.
8. The highly misleading “study” cited by Mr. Kennedy to back up his claim of job benefits from either a proposed “wind farm” on coal river mountain or a wind turbine, tower, and blade manufacturing industry in Raleigh County, West Virginia.
9. False and misleading claims about renewable energy installations in other states.
10. Mr. Kennedy’s false claims about the “efficiency” and competitiveness of electricity from wind.
Download original document: “Evaluation of Robert Kennedy Jr’s Statements in West Virginia about Wind Energy”