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Harmful legislation being considered in Maryland  

An alert was issued to the birding community in Maryland about a bill that has been proposed in both the House of Delegates and the state Senate that would expedite the construction of wind farms at will.

If you live in Maryland and care about the environment and wildlife, please contact your representatives in Annapolis and urge them to oppose this bill.

The bill would eliminate any requirement for any public review or notification – or even informing adjacent land owners whose property values could plummet. Nor would there be any environmental review of the impact on wildlife, endangered species, or forest fragmentation. All an applicant for a wind project would have to do is request a construction permit from the Public Service Commission.

Nobody is trying to keep wind farms out of the state – only to keep them subject to adequate review to ensure that the locations and construction methods that are chosen will not harm birds and other wildlife and plants.

For example, a wind farm in Alameda County, California, is killing an estimated 4,700 birds a year because it was built directly across an international migratory bird route and in an area that has the world’s highest density of nesting Golden Eagles. More care in choosing the site and type of construction would have drastically minimized the slaughter.

“The bills look innocent enough,” the alert explained. “It is just a matter of adding some new language to the existing Public Utility Companies Article in the Annotated Code of Maryland and the wheels are greased for the wind industry” to do whatever is best for their bottom line, regardless of its impact on the environment.

The Maryland Ornithological Society has issued a statement opposing the bill, and the birding community is being encouraged to contact our state legislators and urge them to oppose the bills: HB 1072 in the house and SB 566 in the senate.

I took some information from the message that was posted, researched some more information online, and wrote this to both my delegate and senator (emphasis in original):

Dear ______,

I’m writing to ask you to oppose _B___, the bill to expedite wind power projects by eliminating public review. This bill would exempt wind generating stations from the obligation of obtaining a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN).

The bill sounds like a good idea on the surface – we need to move away from fossil fuels, so lets make it faster and easier to build wind farms. But there are many detrimental unintended consequences that would result if this bill is enacted.

One of the most severe impacts would be on wildlife. Rows of 450-foot turbines are deadly gauntlets which birds and bats have to navigate. They also create large clearcuts, further fragmenting forests that are becoming rare, yet are necessary habitats for preservation of creatures and plants that require an interior forest habitat for successful breeding.

Appropriately positioned and constructed wind farms do not pose a significant hazard for birds; but a great deal of evidence confirms that certain types of sites and construction can cause severe problems for birds, through disturbance, habitat loss/damage or collision with turbines.

The Maryland Ornithological Society, to which I belong, opposes this bill: Their statement said: “Exempting any project with the strong possibility of impacts on migrant birds should be subject to close scientific review by state agencies, and should also be done in the open, with appropriate public input by affected groups. This does not mean MOS opposes wind-power generation, but has concerns about siting and project review.”

The American Bird Conservancy states: “While ABC supports alternative energy sources, including wind power, ABC emphasizes that before approval and construction of new wind energy projects proceeds, potential risks to birds and bats should be evaluated through site analyses, including assessments of bird and bat abundance, timing and magnitude of migration, and habitat use patterns. Wind energy project location, design, operation, and lighting should be carefully evaluated to prevent, or at least minimize, bird and bat mortality and adverse impacts through habitat fragmentation, disturbance, and site avoidance. For example, wind power projects should be sited on areas with poor habitat, such as heavily disturbed lands, (e.g. intensive agriculture), where possible.”

This bill would prevent any oversight or comment on any of these aspects. I’m not opposed to wind power, but I believe it would be extremely harmful to simply give the wind industry a blank check to build whatever they want wherever they want without any review.

Please oppose SB 566.

Sincerely,

I’ve already gotten a reply from my delegate, who wrote this before appending the boilerplate thanking me for contacting her on this important public policy issue blah blah blah:

This bill has a hearing in the Economics Matters Committee on Feb 27th.

I don’t serve on that committee, but will keep a watch on the bill. Your arguments make sense to me.

I feel like I really accomplished something today!

sunnydale47

23 February 2007

Bill info: House Bill 1072

Bill info: Senate Bill 566

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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