Beech Ridge Wind Energy Project: “denial of the incidental take permit resulting in the full termination of project construction must be considered a viable option.”

Letter to the US Fish and Wildlife Service regarding Beech Ridge Wind Energy Project

September 19, 2010

Ms. Laura Hill, Assistant Field Supervisor

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

West Virginia Field Office

694 Beverly Pike

Elkins, WV 26241

(Via email to and original via USPS)

Subject:  Environmental Impact Statement for Issuance of an Incidental Take Permit and Associated Habitat Conservation Plan for the Beech Ridge Wind Energy Project, Greenbrier and Nicholas Counties, WV

Dear Ms. Hill,

With the somewhat disjointed structure of government oversight for matters as complicated as industrial wind, the FWS may initially feel the comments I offer do not weigh heavily on the effort to construct the Environmental Impact Statement for Issuance of an Incidental Take Permit and Associated Habitat Conservation Plan for the Beech Ridge Wind Energy Project, Greenbrier and Nicholas Counties, WV.

The FWS will hopefully hear from learned individuals, far better prepared than I, speaking in detail to the severe negative and cumulative impact of industrial wind on the mountain ranges in our region.  I feel certain the FWS will give their statements full attention as the matter before it is considered.

The purpose my writing is to express concern that the FWS may too narrowly view its scope of authority when considering the developer’s site plan and the means offered to mitigate impacts on wildlife resulting from installation and operation.  I would suggest that, contained within the list of “mitigation” options related to the Beech Ridge, denial of the incidental take permit resulting in the full termination of project construction must be considered a viable option.

If I understand correctly, the FWS is charged to examine and evaluate plans submitted by the industrial wind developer intended to fully protect the environment they are requesting permission to enter.  It is my understanding that, in order to secure an incidental take permit where danger exists, it is the responsibility of the developer to provide, in their plan offered for FWS approval, a mitigation to the danger that will satisfy the FWS.

From the FWS web site: Incidental take permits are required when non-Federal activities will result in take of threatened or endangered species. A habitat conservation plan or “HCP” must accompany an application for an incidental take permit. The habitat conservation plan associated with the permit ensures that the effects of the authorized incidental take are adequately minimized and mitigated.

The statement that, “The habitat conversation plan … ensures that the effects of the authorized (by the FWS, I presume) incidental take are adequately minimized and mitigated,” must be seen as authority within the FWS to insist that the very core environmental benefit claimed by the developer to result from the planned installation – emission reduction – is proven beyond all doubt.  Lacking the ability to concretely prove its claim, the developer’s plan to mitigate damage to wildlife habitat would not be complete lacking the option to cancel construction of the project in the event that the core purpose for such construction cannot be achieved and proven to the FWS.  After all, how can the “taking” of an animal be classified as “incidental” if the “taking” does not result in the benefit for which the permit seeker justifies the killing in the first place?

Considering the fact that, as researchers find ways to circumvent the barriers to transparency established by other government agencies effectively shielding industrial wind developers, the emission reduction claims made by the wind lobby are severely challenged.

It would seem prudent, before the FWS can issue an incidental take permit, that the developer seeking this variance to law be required to prove, beyond forecasting and computer modeling, that they will, in fact, provide the benefit for which they are seeking FWS approval to kill protected species?  Historical records, rather than selective commentary, must certainly be available to substantiate their claim.

Allow me to provide a concrete example of the ongoing dispute on which I base my concern.  A recent study by Bentek Energy LLC ( ) contests the notion put forth by the American Wind Energy Association that industrial wind significantly reduces carbon emissions.  The AWEA, of course challenged the study’s findings which prompted this definitive commentary on the debate:

If the FWS examines the documentation detail it will become apparent that the claims made by the wind lobby regarding emission reduction, the core tenet of the wind developer’s request to kill endangered species is, at best, questionable.  Certainly, it would behoove the FWS to seek the testimony of experts in this field prior to granting any waiver which so greatly impacts not only the flyways of the Appalachians, but also the international treaties created to protect this wildlife.

Far too often we are informed that the various agencies assessing a project cannot consider information “outside” their domain.  This is frankly unacceptable.  The fragmented authority created by this thinking only allows the protection of our environment, secured over many years, to fall victim to cracks in the regulatory “system,” resulting in an incomplete assessment of factors and unwarranted danger to wildlife.

Finally, time is not of the essence.  In reality, whether construction begins now, two years from now or never should not concern the FWS or any government agency in carrying out its charge to protect our wildlife.  The contribution of industrial wind to our national power supply is insignificant to our demand and, lacking any environmental benefit such as significant reduction of emissions directly attributable to the installation of industrial wind projects, such as Beech Ridge, industrial wind is, effectively, of no value.

I would ask that, as the FWS considers moving forward on the Beech Ridge project, the FWS not ignore the fact that an excellent means of mitigating damage to wildlife is to halt construction of a facility which generates no real benefit to the general public.  As such, I feel strongly that the granting of an incidental take permit is not warranted.

Thank you very much for your time and consideration of my comments.

Respectfully submitted,

Michael C. Morgan

Keyser, WV 26726

This entry was posted in Appalachian Mountains, Bat/Bird Kills, Beech Ridge and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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