The State Corporation Commission on Friday sent a proposal for Virginia’s first utility-grade wind farm back to a hearing examiner for development of a plan to mitigate harm to rare birds and bats on Highland County ridges.
In recommending approval last month for construction of 19 turbines, SCC hearing examiner Alexander Skirpan found that the Highland New Wind Development proposal posed a risk to birds and bats. Skirpan recommended a monitoring program, developed by the company and the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, to reduce the environmental hazard.
The SCC said in its order that all parties to the case and the commission’s staff should be involved in developing the plan, and scheduled a hearing for July 17 in Richmond. Among the issues to be considered are funding, the species to be protected and the roles of DGIF and others.
A number of residents in the rugged rural county oppose the turbines, which would be built at a 4,400-foot elevation near the West Virginia border. They fear the whirring blades on 400-foot-tall towers will kill rare and endangered birds and bats that frequent the remote area.
“We agree with the hearing examiner that the proposed facility will provide economic benefits and will have no material adverse effect upon the reliability of electric service provided by any regulated public utility,” the commission’s order said.
But, the SCC said, “We must consider environmental impact.”
6 April 2007
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