Ridgeline wind project opponents want hearings on a permit application by Green Mountain Power to allow the deaths of a small number of endangered or protected bats each year by Lowell wind turbines.
They also want hearings for a similar permit application for the Georgia Mountain project.
The Agency of Natural Resources recently announced that the wind project developers have sought a permit that would allow the turbines to “take” or kill some bats. A draft permit that is being reviewed would allow Lowell turbines to kill seven bats annually.
The bats are among endangered species recently affected by the white-nose disease, which has killed many bats in New England.
Under the draft permit, the turbines in Lowell would have to be feathered and shut down overnight between June and September when bats are most likely to be feeding and flying nearby. The turbines kill the bats by striking them and also from air pressure changes from the rotor.
Ridge Protectors, a group that formed to protect Vermont’s high elevation habitat, asked ANR Secretary Deborah Markowitz to hold the hearings.
Steve Wright of Craftsbury, former Fish and Wildlife commissioner in Vermont and president of Ridge Protectors wrote a letter to Markowitz this week detailing the pressures on the Vermont bat population in requesting the hearings.
He cited the “precarious status of Vermont’s bat population” and the changes in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife bird and bat mortality guidelines.
He also noted that the Vermont Department of Public Service has acknowledged that the wind projects are selling their renewable energy credits to other energy producers that create greenhouse gases. The wind projects “are in effect doing nothing to resist climate change,” he stated.
Wright noted that the state has promoted a “gold rush” by wind developers to raise turbines on hundreds of miles of Vermont’s ridgelines.
He pointed to the recommendations of the governor’s Energy Generation Siting Policy Commission that calls for changes to how wind projects are reviewed and for consideration of community and regional consensus of big energy projects including wind.
He also noted the passage of legislation requiring study of wind projects by DPS and the health department.
The draft permit by ANR, if approved by Markowitz, would allow GMP to kill or “take” up to four little brown bats, one northern long-eared bat, one tri-colored bat, and one eastern small-footed bat, for an annual total of seven state-listed bats.
The white-nose disease put the little brown bat and the northern long-eared bat on the the protected list in 2011 and the tri-colored bat on the list in 2012, according to the draft permit.
GMP will have to pay $18,438 annually to help with the efforts to protect the state’s bat population, and pay for a consultant to count how many bats are killed and to analyze the mitigation efforts.
The draft permit by ANR indicates that the combination of improved operations, curtailments and the reduction in the bat population from white-nose disease helped the Sheffield wind project to avoid killing any members of the endangered bat species last year.
Public comment on the draft permit can be made until June 14.
The permit application by GMP, plus recommendations from the Endangered Species Committee and the draft permit itself, may be found at www.anr.state.vt.us/site/cfm/etstp/index.cfm.
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