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Debate pits environmental groups against wind farms  

Winds of change can be felt in Texas, where the ongoing quest for energy sources is turning to wind power.

“In a really windy area, I think it’s a good idea,” said UT student Maria Townswick.

But what happens when a good idea is put in the wrong place?

“You’ve gotta look at the ecological setting. And some settings are wrong for it,” said Jim Blackburn, a Houston-based environmental lawyer working for the Coastal Habitat Alliance, CHA.

Projects by two companies now underway would put 600 wind turbines about 400 feet tall along the South Texas coast. That’s where millions of migratory birds must pass through to fly south for the winter.

“It’s a world-class worst site,” said Blackburn. CHA and other coastal environmental groups say the blades will kill the birds, and project threatens valuable Texas wetlands.

But the companies behind the wind farms don’t need any state permits to build.

The only state oversight is over transmission lines, which the Public Utility Commission okayed last month.

The group’s hope now is that the Coastal Coordination Council will use its authority to request a review of the transmission lines which will bring the wind power to consumers.

The review would allow for more public input into the proposal, and a vetting of the environmental impact of the wind project.

“[The state’s] own documentation admits that there will be probably more bird kills per turbine than anywhere else in the United States,” Blackburn said.

Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson is now the defendant in lawsuits filed by the CHA. He heads the Coastal Coordination Council, and says the group has little power to stop the project, which is going on private land.

“For the sake of discussion, I find it ironic that environmentalists are suing to stop wind power,” Patterson said.

But the council can request further review of the project, which CHA is hoping for.

“They have the legal authority to do that, but we need three votes,” Blackburn said.

By Elise Hu

KVUE

13 December 2007

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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