Gamesa Development Director, Ellen Lutz recently claimed (“Nothing new reported” Dec. 8) that the recent release of their Indiana bat study by U.S. Fish and Wildlife provides the public with no new information.
Once again, Gamesa distorts the truth. The fact is that lawyers for opponents of the project requested Gamesa’s bat study in August, well before the Aug. 28 public hearing, but Gamesa refused to release it. Although the report was ready by Aug. 20, Gamesa did not want the top bat expert in the east, Michael Gannon, to be able to comment on the findings at the public hearing so they refused to release the report.
What was disclosed at the hearing was largely downplayed. In fact, no newspaper even mentioned the Indiana bat in their stories the following day.
The fact that juvenile Indiana bats were found in the Shaffer Mountain project area is monumental and could very well stop this project. As a federally listed endangered species, the Indiana bat is protected by the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA).
If an endangered species exists on Shaffer Mountain, Gamesa is required, by federal law, to obtain a “takings permit” that will allow Gamesa to kill this endangered species. Two juvenile Indiana bats were found in the Shaffer Mountain project area by Gamesa’s own bat expert on Aug. 8, 2007. No matter how Gamesa tries to spin this finding the conclusion is inescapable: The Indiana bat, a federally listed endangered species, is living on Shaffer Mountain in the area Gamesa wants to build an industrial wind plant. And under the ESA Gamesa is required to obtain a “takings permit” if they want to move forward.
But Gamesa does not want to obtain a “takings permit.” Why? There are several reasons. First, the procedures involved for obtaining a “takings permit” allow for a public hearing. The last public hearing (Aug. 28) did not go well for Gamesa so they want to avoid another hearing where the truth about their project can be exposed to the public.
Second, in order to get a “takings permit” Gamesa will have to show the impacts that their wind plant will have on the endangered species and steps it has taken to minimize or mitigate the “taking”of the endangered species. Since it has been scientifically proven that wind turbines built on forested Appalachian mountaintops in West Virginia and Meyersdale have attracted and killed thousands of bats, Gamesa wants to avoid this analysis as well.
Finally, and most important, a “takings permit” will require Gamesa to disclose and discuss the alternative actions that were considered but not taken. Gamesa wants to avoid this analysis at all costs because it blows their position out of the water.
This is where the strip mine comes in. Berwind owns the Shaffer Mountain project site and a gigantic strip mine 1.5 miles to the west. U S Fish and Wildlife will not allow the wind plant to be built in an undisturbed, unfragmented forest area where it will kill an endangered species, when an already destroyed alternative site exists.
“The path forward,” Ms Lutz, is for Gamesa to abandon this project. Build on the strip mine. If you don’t like that strip mine there are hundreds to choose from in northern Somerset county where approximately 22 percent of the surface area has been subject to some form of mining. That’s thousand and thousands of acres for you to choose from. Look at an ariel map of this area you want to destroy. Because of Piney run, it is a mostly untouched island in a sea of strip mine destruction. Leave it be and move on.
Shaffer Mountain property owner
13 December 2007
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