The following was written as an open letter to Ken Salazar, Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior:
Secretary Ken Salazar has announced a plan to promote outdoor recreation and conservation in WV. He emphasizes programs in Canaan Valley and the New River Gorge. I’m a native of Davis, WV and I’m delighted that outdoor recreation and conservation will be enhanced there. Likewise, I have friends who live near the New River Gorge. This area is in some turmoil between the urge to sell land to developers and the desire to find ways to protect and conserve the extraordinary environmental assets they now possess. This program will be a great help to them and to West Virginia.
But, my major concern is that over the last few years, I’ve seen a transformation along West Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania vistas that has prompted me to study industrial wind. This is what I’ve found:
1. The USFWS and the WVDNR are very concerned about the cumulative adverse effects on the environment of industrial turbine installations along what is often called the Allegheny Front, a narrow but critical migratory pathway for the nation’s song birds and raptors. This area is also habitat for bat populations now known to be essential to agriculture.
2. Two weeks ago, at the Laurel Mountain industrial wind facility near Elkins WV, there was a major nighttime bird kill, allegedly involving 500 – 600 Black Poll Warblers, considered to be a very important songbird in the northeastern U.S. At this date, no reporting has been done on this event. In fact, it is a general rule in WV that industrial wind installations are not required to report adverse episodes after one year. The facility in question has been operating for about two months.
3. No national or local environmental organization favors placing turbine installations in critical ecological regions, including the essential corridors of Appalachia. Even those favoring industrial wind, have policies that oppose turbines in critical wildlife areas.
4. Even so, the U.S. Forest Service is now considering allowing turbines in the George Washington National Forest. This appears to contradict the Secretary’s intentions.
5. Compared to the west, Appalachian wind is not good for industrial electricity generation. Our grid, the PJM, has performed summertime studies of Appalachian turbine installations and has rated them at 13% efficiency referenced to their rated capacity.
6. The cost of installation is being borne by the U.S. public, way out of proportion to other energy sources, with the exceptions of solar and clean coal. The industrial wind energy industry could not exist without these budget-busting subsidies, now totaling $30 billion. This cost is rapidly increasing. Somewhere there has to be a tipping point for U.S. taxpayers. A sixty five percent public contribution to big wind’s capital costs means the public pays for installing wind facilities but the equity and profit goes to the developer.
7. Cash grants through the 1603 Grant in Lieu of Taxes Program is particularly disturbing because of its rapid growth and the fact that much of this money is going to foreign companies. The price tag on that program is now $9 billion, most going to industrial wind companies
Based on the above, my petition is three-fold:
1. The Secretary should assess critical areas that should be protected from industrial development harmful to the ecology and advocate for federal law to protect such areas. Otherwise, in my neck of the woods, his recreation and conservation program will be significantly forfeited.
2. The Secretary should issue a moratorium on deep shale gas extraction and industrial wind facilities on all federal land until trustworthy site- specific environmental impact studies assure the lack of adverse impact.
3. Since the federal government has a lawful interest in migratory song birds and raptors, Secretary Salazar should advocate rules or law that requires industrial wind facilities to report promptly any and all episodes of wildlife mortality associated with their operation. Otherwise, the American public will never know the extent or consequences of these occurrences.
Wayne C. Spiggle
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