What follows is a letter written to Maryland DNR Secretary, John Griffin regarding the serious impact of industrial wind on endangered species in the highlands of Western Maryland. We thank Mr. John Bambacus for his permission to post the letter here, for your convenience, consideration and action.
Mr. Bambacus forwarded the letter to several individuals, including current Maryland legislators, with this recommendation:
“In light of the fact that work on a nearby WV wind project has been halted by U.S. District Court Judge Roger W. Titus, it is respectfully requested that any and all permits pending or granted for Garrett County wind development projects not be granted or be rescinded until consideration be given to threatened and endangered species as required by the court ruling and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (Incidental Takings Permit).”
His letter to the Secretary begins:
December 16, 2009
Honorable John R. Griffin Re: Judge Titus Decision
Department of Natural Resources
Tawes State Office Building C4
580 Taylor Avenue
Annapolis, Maryland 21401-2397
Dear Mr. Secretary:
In light of the recent federal court ruling on endangered species, I am trying to understand the Department’s position on current Maryland law which exempts any industrial wind plant project from comprehensive environmental review process (PSC CPCN hearing process) if its generating capacity is limited to 70MW or less. You will recall that the Department opposed the passage of this law, requested by Synergics President Wayne Rogers after he withdrew his initial 40MW proposal targeting the Roth Rock ridge in Garrett County when faced with endangered species conditions he found objectionable. Under SB 566, which passed the General Assembly in 2007 and was signed by Governor O’Malley, Rogers reapplied for an exemption, again for a project along Roth Rock, this time requesting to build a 50MW plant. Synergics has argued that the PSC cannot consider in its “exemption” determination any issue other than “grid safety and reliability.” Current law, as I understand it, precludes any comprehensive environmental review, and thus the conundrum facing the Department.
Does the Department agree that it no longer has any role to play in protecting threatened and endangered species as these might be affected by the installation and operation of 70MW or smaller wind projects? Will it continue not to challenge the current PSC interpretation that, because it believes the Maryland General Assembly’s intention was to rescind any socio-economic or environmental oversight, it cannot deny permission to a developer of a 70MW or smaller industrial wind plant— even if the wind energy project might result in harm to species listed by DNR as endangered and thus heretofore protected under the State’s Nongame and Endangered Species Conservation Act?In the case of the Mourning Warbler at Roth Rock, for example, a massive wind project could indeed remove this state endangered species from its only reliable nesting site in the state.
Interestingly, in Synergics’ original application for its Garrett County wind plant (Case Number 9008), the Department filed extensive comments which expressly asserted and explained that the Mourning Warbler, protected under Maryland’s Nongame and Endangered Species Conservation Act, would be harmed. Under the re-filed “exemption” application (Case Number 9191), there is no filing from the Department and no mention of the endangered Mourning Warbler issue. As you know, I filed a request for internal DNR staff documents under the State’s Public Information Act, and was told that such records were “pre-decisional” and therefore not made available to me.
It may be that by ignoring the implications of federal law for Maryland, not to mention state law, the Department is at risk for failing to implement and enforce the law. As your expert staff knows well, Golden Eagles and other species of concern are placed at risk by any massive industrial facility placed high above the ridgelines of Maryland’s mountains.
John N. Bambacus
Mr. Bambacus is a resident of Frostburg, Maryland and former Maryland State Senator. Mr. Bambacus .