Proponents and advocates of wind energy in Greenbrier County are weighing in on Thursday’s release of a national study mandated by Congress on the environmental impacts of windfarms with mixed results.
Whether either side will use the study to its own advantage as the deadline nears for filing written briefs to the state Supreme Court is unknown, but both will have some ammunition to use.
Just last month, the court agreed to hear two appeals of the state Public Service Commission’s green light to allow a building permit for a proposed $300 million windfarm in northern Greenbrier County.
While the 262-page report by the National Research Council gave certain broad recommendations, such as the need for uniform siting regulations across the country, and also specific information, such as its prediction that wind-generated electricity would displace 5.4 percent of the carbon dioxide otherwise produced by fossil fuel electric plants, committee members adamantly said Thursday there was a need for extensive studies of the effects of windfarms on humans, animals and the environment.
The NRS study also raised several issues that anti-windfarm advocates have been spinning since Chicago-based Invenergy announced its plans to build 124 turbines on 23 miles of forested ridges, primarily on land owned by MeadWestvaco.
This was music to the ears of Mountain Communities For Responsible Energy spokesman Dave Buhrman, who is trying to overturn the PSC’s approval of a siting certificate near Cold Knob. One of the group’s major arguments is the PSC isn’t knowledgeable enough about the complicated subject to make an informed decision.
“MCRE’s first and foremost cry has been, don’t rush into giant industrial wind projects without knowing the consequences,” Buhrman said Friday. “Our understanding is that the Canadian government does not permit turbine construction on forested ridgetops because of the negative consequences to wildlife. We would like to see similar siting regulations protecting forested ridgelines on the Allegheny front.”
However, some of the recommendations of the NRS study, such as pre-construction and post-construction bat studies, was already included in Beech Ridge Energy’s siting certificate issued by the PSC. Dave Groberg, Invenergy’s business development manager, said while he had not read the entire report, “it’s safe to say the state of West Virginia is out in front of the (report’s) conclusions.”
“The West Virginia Legislature and the Public Service Commission have already put in place comprehensive regulations for he coordinated review of proposed wind projects,” Groberg said Friday. “By the time we receive approval to start construction, various aspect of the Beech Ridge Windfarm will have been examined by a host of state and federal agencies, including the FAA, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the state DNR, the state DEP, the state Historic Preservation Office, the PSC and the state Supreme Court.”
By Christian Giggenbach
4 May 2007
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