December 22, 2009

RE: ‘National Audubon Society Shows Support for Wind Power’

An open letter response to the National Audubon Society:

National Audubon’s shameful pandering to the wind industry is punctuated by President John Flicker’s remarks in ‘National Audubon Society Shows Support for Wind Power’: “When you look at a wind turbine, you can find the bird carcasses and count them,” he said.”

Contradicting John Flicker is the federal regulator participating in the offshore Cape Wind NEPA environmental review; and in the ESA Section 7 permit review process of Cape Wind, US Fish and Wildlife Service. New England FWS comments to lead federal Minerals Management Service MMS on the project draft EIS state the Adaptive management effective monitoring techniques “simply do not exist” to count Cape Wind produced avian carcasses.

Yet, the condition of MA Audubon’s “support for Cape Wind is the permitting agencies’ acceptance of AM Adaptive Management monitoring and mitigation-handled by contract.

NEPA analysis should avoid taking on a project advocacy position.  Accordingly, the condition of MA Audubon’s “support” for Cape Wind signals the corruption of the NEPA environmental review process in which MA Audubon is involved.  Even more troubling is that MA Audubon’s Cape Wind support condition is “doomed to failure” according to the federal regulator with purview over the endangered species.

“In his column, Flicker noted how Mass Audubon, an independent state Audubon organization in Massachusetts, recently completed an extensive review of the Cape Wind project, a study that “set a new standard for analyzing the potential effects of wind turbines on birds.”

National Audubon President John Flicker lauds MA Audubon for setting “…a new standard for analyzing the potential effects of wind turbines on birds.” Yet, MA Audubon’s approximate $8 million dollar, future contract condition of “support” for Cape Wind, calls for the implementation of effective techniques that “simply do not exist” according U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that has purview over the endangered and migrating species present in Nantucket Sound.

Taber Allison and Jack Clarke of MA Audubon state in their “Challenge” press release: “Monitoring and mitigation should be funded by Cape Wind with contributions from independent institutions and government agencies as appropriate“.


While Mr. Flicker emphasizes the importance of prudent siting, the Cape Wind project is imprudently sited in an Important Bird Area, and migratory flyway with endangered species present.  MA Audubon sets the table for immitigable harm to endangered and migratory wildlife by offering their “support” of Cape Wind in Nantucket Sound, and with the unfortunate blessing of National Audubon.  The new standard set by MA Audubon ignores Best Science that states to avoid siting wind turbines in IBAs, migratory flyways, and in areas where endangered species are present, perfectly describes Nantucket Sound.

MA Audubon’s Dr. Taber Allison has flatly denied MA Audubon’s testimony to federal regulators on bird kill by Cape Wind by his 8/30/06 published statement, Mass Audubon scientists have never concluded that up to 6,600 birds, or any number of birds, would be killed if this project is permitted…”

As the President of Mass Audubon, Laura A. Johnson, submitted Mass Audubon’s comments on the Cape Wind DEIS on February 23, 2005:  By utilizing other bird mortality data provided in the DEIS, Mass Audubon staff scientists arrived at avian mortalities that ranged from 2,300 to 6,600 collision deaths per year.”

I wonder how many National or MA Audubon members understand that their dollars support the practice of killing then allegedly counting dead birds in an Important Bird Area and migratory flyway, with endangered species present.

Implementing techniques that “simply do not exist” to count Cape Wind produced avian carcasses for profit strikes me as an easy but repugnant way to earn a living; while courting extinction and the wind industry, Mr. Flicker.

It begs the question, “Who Is supporting bird life?”


Barbara Durkin

Northboro, MA  01532

Supporting Evidence:

‘Alameda County approves new bird-monitoring contract for Altamont Pass wind Turbines’

Upper Cape Codder: 4/20/06 (MA Audubon’s “Challenge” press releases)

Allison & Clarke: Challenge to Cape Wind: Get it right
By Taber Allison and Jack Clarke

“Mass. Audubon challenges the developer of Cape Wind and its PERMITTING AGENCIES TO ACCEPT comprehensive and rigorous MONITORING AND MITIGATION CONDITIONS that will reduce the risk to birds and other wildlife. IF THESE CONDITIONS ARE ADOPTED and remaining significant data gaps are addressed, MASS AUDUBON WILL SUPPORT CAPE WIND, the largest, clean, renewable-energy project in the Northeast.

We also propose adoption of an Adaptive Management Plan that includes a rigorous monitoring program beginning at the construction phase and continuing for at least three years post-construction, mitigation measures in the event that the project results in significant adverse environmental impacts, compensation for the use of public lands and waters and enforceable procedures for decommissioning any abandoned turbines.

An independent panel should be responsible for collecting and analyzing data collected during monitoring and preparing reports for peer review and dissemination to relevant agencies, Cape Wind and the public.

Finally, an independently administered mitigation fund should be established for conservation of bird habitat around Nantucket Sound. MONITORING AND MITIGATION SHOULD BE FUNDED BY CAPE WIND with contributions from independent institutions and government agencies as appropriate…” [cut]

Mass Audubon’s testimony on Cape Wind to the USACE:

The President of Mass Audubon, Laura A. Johnson, submitted Mass Audubon’s comments on the Cape Wind DEIS on February 23, 2005; to Ms. Karen Kirk Adams, the Cape Wind Energy Project Manager U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New England District — Reference File No. NAE-2004-338-1, EOEA No. 12643:

“By utilizing other bird mortality data provided in the DEIS, Mass Audubon staff scientists arrived at avian mortalities that ranged from 2,300 to 6,600 collision deaths per year.”

Mass Audubon’s testimony on avian mortalities by Cape Wind to the USACE is denied by Dr. Taber Allison of MA Audubon:

SouthCoastToday: 8/03/06 LTE-Letter writer gets bird facts wrong by Taber Allison of Mass Audubon: ‘Letter writer gets bird facts wrong’

“Barbara Durkin repeatedly misquotes our public comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Study for the proposed Cape Wind project in Nantucket Sound as she does most recently in her July 26 Letter to the Editor. Mass Audubon scientists have never concluded that up to 6,600 birds, or any number of birds, would be killed if this project is permitted…”

The consequence of lacking transparency in the Cape Wind review process is potential extinction:

Cape Cod Times 4/22/08

Roseate terns: ‘On the brink of extinction’

“The roseate tern is listed as endangered, but we believe it is on the brink of extinction,” said Jack Clarke, public policy director for the Massachusetts Audubon Society.” Cape Cod Times 4/22/08.

Mass Audubon comment to the USACE on the Cape Wind DEIS:

“This area of Nantucket Sound is within the eastern U.S. migratory bird flyway and hosts high concentrations of wintering waterfowl, and is in close proximity to nesting, foraging and staging areas for federally endangered roseate terns and threatened piping plovers. Substantial numbers of federally endangered sea turtles and protected marine mammal species frequent the proposed project site. In addition, the proposed site provides habitat for federally regulated finfish and shellfish populations.”

Mass Audubon:

“First, for some avian species, such as the Roseate Tern or Piping Plover, a single death as a result of the project could be regarded as an unacceptable level of impact under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.”

Mass Audubon on the Roseate Tern:

“In 2001, 1,826 pairs of Roseate Tern, representing half of the entire North American Population of this species, nested in Buzzard’s Bay. During the breeding season the adults of this species are known to forage heavily between Wood’s Hole and Nantucket. From July to September even a higher percentage, perhaps as much as 75% of the entire North American population stages at the following beaches in Nantucket Sound—South Beach, Chatham; Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge, Chatham; Great Point, Nantucket, Cape Pogue, on Martha’s Vineyard, and a variety of smaller beaches between Hyannis and Mashpee.”

April 21, 2008 USFWS provided to Dr. Cluck, Cape Wind Project Manager of MMS, this comments on the Cape Wind MMS DEIS:

“The current framework that MMS is proposing would forgo refinement of pre-construction study protocols and set in motion an adaptive management process that would be doomed to failure because effective techniques to perform post-construction monitoring simply do not exist.”

Best Scientist Donald Michael Fry, PhD Director, Pesticides and Birds Program
American Bird Conservancy:

“We may never know what the magnitude of the problem will be at Cape Wind, because the monitoring planned for the project is inadequate.  The radar studies conducted by Cape Wind were inadequate.  The Fish and Wildlife Service review of the project and of MMS PEIS was quite critical.”

Cape Wind draft EIS NE USFWS comments continue:

“With respect to natural resources for which Fish & Wildlife Service is responsible, we find that there is considerable need to correct inaccuracies, explain inconsistencies, clarify ambiguities, fully articulate the limitations of the available science, and reach logical conclusions about the extent of impacts or the inability to predict them in the absence of information,” said Michael Bartlett, supervisor of Fish & Wildlife’s New England field office in Concord, N.H.”

“The Draft Environmental Impact Statement repeatedly and inappropriately draws conclusions regarding anticipated environmental impacts, or lack thereof, in the absence of important site-specific information on natural resources in…Nantucket Sound.” Chief among these are migratory birds and the benthic and pelagic resources the birds depend on.”

CAlifornians for Renewable Energy President-Michael Boyd:

“The Cape Wind project is sited over water so there is no way to quantify the impact of wind turbines on avian species because we have no way to count bird and bat carcases like we do in the Altamont Pass California where the turbines are over land. This also means that adaptive management will not work since we have no way to gage the impact of mitigation measures for these wind turbines.”

By Chris Metinko, Inside Bay Area 4/24/07 (answering, Who is Michael Boyd?)

“A lawsuit filed against the county in October by the Golden Gate Audubon Society, Californians for Renewable Energy and four other local Audubon chapters challenged the county’s decision o renew permits for Altamont Pass wind turbines. A subsequent settlement forces the wind industry to commit to a 50 percent reduction in raptor deaths by November 2009, and remove the deadliest turbines and continuing winter shutdowns of the wind machines.” [cut]

Minerals Management Service FY 2006 Cooperative Conservation Project’

“Project Title:

Cape Wind Energy Project

Examples of Key Partners

Cape Wind LLC, State of Massachusetts, Cape Cod Commission, Massachusetts Audubon Society, Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Corps of Engineers, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Aviation Administration, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head, and the U.S. Minerals Management Service.”


US Department of the Interior

Minerals Management Service

Environmental Assessment Branch (MS 4042)

381 Elden Street

Herndon, VA 20170

Re:  Comments on the Cape Wind Draft Environmental Impact Statement, January 2008

Dear Minerals Management Service:

“Mass Audubon thanks the U.S. Department of the Interior’s (DOI) Minerals Management Service (MMS) for the opportunity to comment on the Cape Wind Energy Project Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), January 2008.

Mass Audubon has previously and formally commented to the federal government on an earlier DEIS for this project and issued a Challenge Proposal to permitting agencies and the applicant on the same (citations below).”

editor BJD note: this document provides a chronology of MA Audubon’s involvement in the review of Cape Wind and in the creation of wind energy regulations.


Position Statement on Wind Energy Development

John J. Clarke, Director of Advocacy May 12, 2003.

“Mass Audubon Involvement”

“Mass Audubon has submitted comments to federal, state, and local agencies and project proponents in response to several wind energy projects including the Cape Wind project, and we will continue participate in the environmental review and permitting processes.”


Boston Globe

‘Get balance right with Cape Wind’

By Laura Johnson  | April 9, 2006

“THE FEDERAL review of the proposed Cape Wind project in Nantucket Sound will set the standard for future offshore wind projects in the United States, so it is important that we ”get it right.” Renewable energy will reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and combat global warming, which, if unchecked, will lead to rising sea levels, and may one day wash away coastal habitat and popular beaches.”

“While the Massachusetts Audubon Society recognizes the need for ”green” energy, no purpose is served if the project causes greater harm than good. Mass Audubon has taken a leadership role in analyzing the potential environmental impact, with particular attention to the birds that live in the sound’s Horseshoe Shoal or fly through this area.”

“After five years of project review, including three years of ornithological fieldwork, we released Mass Audubon’s Challenge, a detailed set of standards that will guide our final review of this important project…”


“Mass Audubon is one of many who have and will continue to comment on one of the most important, precedent-setting renewable energy projects in the nation.  As one of the largest conservation NGO’s in the Northeast, MA Audubon will continue to be involved in the public environmental review of this project, especially its avian aspects.”


Best Science:

The Department of the Interior and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service guidelines for siting wind towers in 2003:

“–Avoid placing turbines in documented locations of any species of wildlife, fish, or plant protected under the ESA.

— Avoid locating turbines in known local bird-migration pathways or in areas where birds are highly concentrated, unless mortality risk is low (e.g., birds rarely enter the rotor-swept area). Examples of high-concentration areas for birds are wetlands, state or federal refuges, private duck clubs, staging areas, rookeries, roosts, riparian areas along streams, and landfills.

— Avoid known daily-movement flyways (e.g., between roosting and feeding areas) and areas with a high incidence of fog, mist, low cloud ceilings, and low visibility.”

(Avoid siting wind turbines in Nantucket Sound in other words)


Feds comment on Ocean Plan : Martha’s Vineyard Times : December 17, 2009

MA Audubon’s Jack Clarke is appointed by Governor Patrick as Advisor on the environment.  Mr Clarke is helping to create the state Ocean Plan that Fish and Wildlife Service said lacks details on protected species.

Feds comment on Ocean Plan

Plan lacks details on protected species

“…Thomas R. Chapman, FWS New England Field Office supervisor, included the criticism in a seven-page letter, dated Nov. 23, to Deering Babb-Brott, assistant secretary for oceans and coastal zone management in the state Executive Office of Environmental Affairs (EOEA).

“Overall, we find the concept of the Plan to be valuable and timely,” FWS said. “The Plan is essentially a zoning map for the offshore waters under the state’s jurisdiction.”

But FWS found the plan lacking in detail, particularly with respect to laws and federal requirements in place to protect migratory birds…”

MA Audubon should be disqualified an MMS identified “Key Partner” and participant in the Cape Wind NEPA environmental review process.  As they have undermined the NEPA review by offering their “support” of the Cape Wind project as they are involved in the project permit review process.


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  1. Gary Andrews says:

    Technology does exist that can help to provide better design data as well as address bird mortality issues at wind farms. My company offers an advanced, highly automated avian radar system that can provide 24-7 monitoring of bird activity for offshore wind farms and includes new technology that can automatically idle the turbines during periods of high bird mortality risk (passage rate, visibility, altitude, and other parameters). The first windfarms in the world to implement radar-based curtailment technology are the Gulf Wind I and Penascal windfarms in coastal Texas where the developers voluntarily committed to permanent bird radar installations and automated turbine idling when elevated bird risk is detected.

  2. Jon Boone says:

    Mr. Andrews company is one of several offering such a post construction wind monitory operation, one designed to provide estimates of the numbers of birds moving at varying elevations at or near wind project sites. It is possible that, as he says, the wind turbines can be “feathered” for a time at times of highest risk. That is, the blades won’t be spinning. This should help to reduce mortality, but certainly not eliminate it. At times of poor visibility, under certain conditions, migrating birds can fly directly into the turbines, primarily because of the lights–as they do with all tall structures.

    His system will not provide appreciable help for bats.

    If hired, however, Andrews would be a limited liability wind company employee, doing what he is told. He would not be hired to assess risk or to independently shut down the wind operation without orders from the company. He likely would also be required to sign a confidentiality agreement, which would limit would he could say or do about his employment with the company.

    Although I don’t doubt his professional integrity, or his integrity of his service, I do think he would be used used for public relations purposes, giving the impression that the wind industry, which is so incredibly feckless as a producer of electricity, is also environmentally benign, when it is anything but….

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