Rep. Alan Mollohan is proving refreshingly thoughtful and farsighted on one of the emerging issues facing West Virginia – the pros and cons of wind power.
He makes a persuasive case that the state should regulate its newest energy industry now.
On Tuesday, the 1st District congressman told a congressional subcommittee he is very concerned about the impact wind farms could have on the wildlife and natural beauty of the state.
“In the past, West Virginia’s natural resources were exploited without regard to the long-term environmental consequences,” he said, “and I think it’s imperative that this not be allowed to happen again.”
The Mountaineer project in his district consists of 44 wind turbines, each about 340 feet tall – 50 feet higher than the tip of the Capitol dome. The project encompasses more than 4,000 acres of mountain ridges.
Studies show that wind turbines whack bats, night-migrating songbirds, and raptors.
After periodic studies in 2003 and 2004, the operator of the Mountaineer project refused to allow further studies or alter its operations, Mollohan said.
He does not think wind energy firms, propped up by a hefty federal subsidy, should enjoy “a de facto exemption from the wildlife protection laws.”
He is not alone in that.
As Mollohan points out, West Virginia now has only one operating wind-energy project. But the state Public Service Commission has approved construction of three much larger projects. One would have 124 turbines.
“If these four projects are built as proposed, the number of turbines on the mountain ridges of West Virginia would jump by well more than 10-fold, to 584 turbines,” he said. “If those data weren’t sobering enough, the Fish and Wildlife Service stated recently that it is reviewing six more wind-energy projects that have been proposed for the state.”
Mollohan is right. It’s time to slow this heavily subsidized stampede.
The National Research Council said Thursday that wind farms now generate less than 1 percent of the nation’s power supply, but could supply as much 7 percent within 15 years.
What would West Virginia get from this new industry – negligible amounts of power, and 100 percent of the wildlife and scenic damage?
That is not an acceptable tradeoff, and the state should be aggressive about saying so.
4 May 2007
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