“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” The Lorax, by Dr. Seuss
In celebration of Earth Day, I read The Lorax to my sixth grade students. This cautionary tale, written forty years ago, provides an exceptional opportunity to discuss a powerful message:
We must stand up to blatant disregard for the environment and industrial greed.
We need to change in order to protect our natural world; we need to find reliable, clean, renewable energy sources. Unfortunately, the wind industry exploits this initiative in their pursuit of financial gain. In reality, industrial wind projects cause serious harm to the environment, enough harm in fact, to spur the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to draft new environmental guidelines aimed directly at the wind industry. (http://www.fws.gov/windenergy/index.html). These guidelines are intended to provide guidance in order to make “the best possible decisions in the review and selection of sites for wind energy facilities to avoid and minimize negative impacts to fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats.”
It is no surprise that the wind industry is lobbying hard to establish themselves exempt from enforcement action of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) and Bald and Golden Eagle Projection Act (BGEPA). The Migratory Bird Treaty Act protects 1007 species of birds—parts, eggs, nests, and feathers. The Bald Golden Eagle Protection Act protects threatened bald and golden eagles. Presently, forty percent of bat species are state and/or federally protected. Wind developers face strict liability statutes that do not allow incidental “takes” of protected species. If developers have no permit for “take” they are in violation of these federal statutes and will face thousands of dollars in fines. In order to obtain a permit for take wind developers must demonstrate they have done all that is possible to minimize damage to wildlife and habitats.
What are the impacts of wind turbines to bats and birds? Bats and birds collide with the rotor blades which sweep an area over four acres at 180 miles per hour. Turbines cause collapsed lungs and direct habitat loss resulting in habitat site abandonment. Industrial turbines, at heights of five hundred feet, present a tremendous threat to migrating birds and bats, many of which are protected species. Birds are at risk, but the toll on bats is vast. Bats, eating their weight in insects every day, aid in the control of agricultural pests and disease carrying insects. The economic impact of bat deaths due to wind turbines translates into a multi-billion dollar cost for the agricultural and disease control industries.
To safeguard bats, a valuable natural resource, wind developers need to closely coordinate with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and local agencies to evaluate sites before they are selected and loans are obtained. The guidelines for a permit require proper evaluation of potential sites, determination of the appropriate location and design of turbines and their infrastructure, and both pre- and post-construction studies of impact on birds, bats, and habitats. Accurate evaluation of potential sites requires assessments at each of three tiers in order to mitigate potential impacts to wildlife and habitats. These assessments are geared toward collecting detailed information in order to make sound decisions related to the siting, construction, and operation of industrial wind turbines.
BNE Energy, Inc. proposes building a total of six 500 foot industrial wind turbines in two separate locations in Colebrook; Colebrook South, on Flagg Hill Road, and Colebrook North, on Rock Hall Road. BNE has not worked in conjunction with the U.S. Fish &Wildlife Service, instead, they hired “experts” to conduct their own version of bat habitat assessments. Unfortunately, their studies did not follow the three tier guidelines put forth by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service putting Colebrook’s wildlife and habitats at serious risk. BNE claims to have conducted a Tier 1-3 pre-construction assessment in accordance with the United States Fish and Wildlife wind turbine guidelines. Tier 1 is an evaluation of potential sites, simply not done at the Colebrook North location, which has already triggered the relocation of one turbine’s planned location. Tier two guidelines clearly state that a proper pre-construction assessment requires site-specific details, with at least one site visit by a wildlife biologist to evaluate habitat and bat resources for forest-roosting bats. BNE’s expert “was not retained to conduct habitat assessments for forest-roosting bats” so therefore, no Tier Two Site Assessment for forest-roosting bats was conducted at the either the Colebrook North or South project sites. Tier three assessments require field studies at the actual proposed site in order to collect data on wildlife conditions and the potential of impact from the wind turbine projects. No screening was ever completed at the Colebrook North site, data collected came from only the Colebrook South location. For BNE to state they followed USFWS Guidelines is at best an accidental misstatement, at worst an intentional mischaracterization.
As a result of these proposed industrial wind turbine projects here in Colebrook, I’ve come to appreciate the Lorax within me. In the story, standing on a tree stump, the Lorax resolutely proclaims, “I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues!” as he helplessly stands by witness to the Once-ler making his fortune on something called a thneed; forced to listen to the Once-ler justify his greed and the resulting environmental destruction with the sales pitch: “A Thneed’s A-Fine-Something-That-All-People-Need!” The wind industry has a similar marketing plan; clean, renewable energy that all people need. But their plan is as flawed as the Once-ler’s with their blatant disregard for the environment and their industrial greed.
In the end, the Once-ler at long last comprehends the horrendous effect of his actions and he tells his story in hopes someone will care enough to make things better. We all need to care enough about the wildlife and habitats found here in Colebrook and recognize BNE did not demonstrate due diligence in their environmental impact studies. Had they done so, I would not be so concerned. BNE does not care about the fact that once these 500 foot industrial wind turbines are constructed, the inevitable environmental damage will be realized to late…they are simply out to make their fortune.
Ask yourselves, are the benefits REAL? Is the damage worth? Is there a better way? Yes! Energy conservation is more effective, affordable and environmentally friendly than industrial wind power.
We do not need the BNE “thneeds” …they are Not-A-Fine-Something-That-All-People-Need! We all need to find the Lorax in ourselves and stand up to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves; Colebrook’s wildlife and habitats deserve to be protected for future generations to enjoy and cherish.
Mrs. Jennifer Truss
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding