The fight to stop the Shaffer Mountain Wind Farm will be pushed to federal court with a claim that the facility will harm an endangered species living on the site, according to John Buchan Jr., an ardent opponent of the project.
Buchan, one of the founders of Sensible Wind Solutions, said the group will send a notice of intent to file suit with federal and state agencies charged with protecting the Indiana bat (Myotis sodalist), which is on the endangered species list.
Sensible Wind Solutions, a not-for-profit group seeking the relocation of Gamesa Energy USA’s 30-plus turbines slated for the Allegheny Front, believes the bat has a reproducing colony somewhere on the proposed site, the letter will state, Buchan said.
The letter and potential suit will be prepared by the law firm of Meyer, Glitzenstein and Crystal, a Washington, D.C., firm that specializes in suits regarding the Endangered Species Act of 1973, he said.
The wind farm, which is projected to extend through parts of Shade and Ogle townships in Somerset County and Napier Township in Bedford County, has been the subject of a number of environmental studies, many of them required in order to receive clearance from the Pennsylvania Natural Diversity Index.
The index mandates developers to determine whether endangered animals plants and even some insect populations could be affected by the project and are often paid for by the developer.
It was a Gamesa-sponsored study performed last year by Bat Conservation and Management, of Carlisle, and Sanders Environmental Inc., of Centre Hall, that found juvenile male Indiana bats on the proposed project site, Buchan said.
Armed with the results of that study and testimony from Pennsylvania State University professor and bat researcher Michael Gannon, the group hopes to get the project stopped.
According to Buchan, Gannon will testify that the fact that the captured Indiana bats were juveniles indicates that there is a maternity colony close to where they were captured, he said.
It would indicate that there is a breeding, thriving population of Indiana bats, an endangered species, on Shaffer Mountain. “Gamesa has chosen to ignore that. Our science is good. This is not a tenuous potential impact, this is real, documented fact,” he said.
Issuing the letter of intent will give the group 30 days with state agencies and 60 days with federal agencies to file suit, he said.
Gamesa’s Project Manager Tim Vought said the company could not issue comment on the matter until the letter had been seen and reviewed.
The company has long maintained that numerous studies show the project will have minimal impact on wildlife, habitat and the environment when completed.
By Dan DiPaolo
26 February 2008
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