January 14, 2011

Maryland wind projects face pressure from environmental groups

By Mark Del Franco, North American Windpower, nawindpower.com 13 January 2011

Maryland’s first two wind projects are facing mounting pressure from environmental groups that insist the developers are endangering the Indiana bat, a creature listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Save Western Maryland and the Maryland Conservation Council are urging Constellation Energy and Synergics to obtain incidental take permits (ITP) from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), and the environmental groups are planning to sue in federal court to make the developers comply.

Save Western Maryland has brought suit against Constellation Energy in a U.S. District Court in Maryland, claiming that turbines on the 70 MW site in Garrett County, Md., will injure or kill Indiana bats.

Claims of turbines doing harm to Indiana bats made national headlines last year. Some environmental groups forced Chicago-based developer Invenergy to halt construction on a West Virginia wind farm because it failed to obtain an ITP. Invenergy later settled the case and subsequently secured its permit.

“The intent of the Constellation suit was for them to get an ITP,” says Eric Robison, co-founder of Save Western Maryland and a local resident who lives a quarter mile from the nearest turbine. “I’ve been painted as an environmentalist or as a ‘not in my back yard’ (NIMBY). I’m not a NIMBY. These turbines are all around me.”

Robison also claims that his family and neighbors have been harassed because he has been outspoken.

The Constellation project has been operational since Dec. 27, 2010. For its part, Constellation Energy says it has been working with FWS for almost a year to acquire an ITP, according to Kevin Thornton, spokesperson for the company.

“We are working with FWS on an ITP and should get our ITP by April,” he says.

Robison is dubious, however. “We’ve been hearing that for the last nine months,” he says.

Save Western Maryland is also urging Annapolis-based developer Synergics to secure an ITP for its 20-turbine project site atop Maryland’s Backbone Mountain.

Robison filed his intent to sue under the ESA and is about to bring a suit against Synergics similar to the one against Constellation. Robison, a contractor, claims that Synergics had destroyed about four miles of mountain top, but that the company also had minimal controls in place over erosion and sediment control.

However, Synergics has no plans to pursue an ITP, according to Frank Maisano, spokesperson.

“We see this for what it is … a delaying tactic,” Maisano says. “We’re passed the eleventh hour; we’re about ready to begin testing.”

He says that groups such as Save Western Maryland were emboldened by the West Virginia case involving Invenergy.

“What happened in West Virginia has no bearing on what’s going on here,” he says. “Every case is different. There hasn’t been an endangered bat found in this area in 15 years.”

URL to article:  https://www.wind-watch.org/news/2011/01/14/maryland-wind-projects-face-pressure-from-environmental-groups/