Md. wind farm developer, wildlife group settle suit, scale back W.Va. project to protect batBy Vicki Smith, AP
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Md. wind farm developer to forgo 24 turbines
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — A Maryland developer has agreed not to build 24 turbines and will abandon 31 proposed sites at a West Virginia wind farm, settling a lawsuit by environmental groups worried about potential harm to the endangered Indiana bat.
Under the deal announced Wednesday, Beech Ridge Energy of Rockville will seek incidental take permits from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as ordered last month by U.S. District Judge Roger Titus. He had temporarily halted construction of the Greenbrier County project, which now will have no more than 100 turbines.
Beech Ridge Energy also agreed to operate turbines only during the bats’ annual hibernation period, from mid-November to March 31, when they are not migrating.
D.J. Schubert, a biologist with the Animal Welfare Institute of Washington, D.C., said the settlement was a reasonable compromise that protects the bat population but also lets the builder proceed with an alternative energy project.
“It’s a victory for all parties who are supportive of green energy but who feel that green energy companies have to be held to some standard in terms of ensuring their projects do not harm and threaten the environment,” Schubert said. “A standard has been set now, and we certainly hope the renewable energy industry takes heed.”
Joe Condo, vice president and general counsel for Beech Ridge Energy’s parent company, Invenergy LLC of Chicago, said the company was also pleased.
“This compromise will permit Beech Ridge Energy to continue employing skilled West Virginia construction workers to finish building the project and to proceed with the hiring of the full-time local operations team,” he said in a statement.
Beech Ridge can immediately begin building as many as 67 turbines, Condo said, and the terms of the agreement mean the company can “begin providing clean energy to West Virginia in the first half of 2010.”
The Animal Welfare Institute and the Williamsburg, W.Va.-based Mountain Communities for Responsible Energy had sued both Beech Ridge and Invenergy, which planned to appeal the judge’s December ruling.
Under the settlement, however, the developers agreed to drop their appeal and the plaintiffs agreed they will not challenge any incidental take permits the Fish and Wildlife Service may issue.
Such permits are required when landowners, companies, state or local governments build projects that might harm wildlife that is listed as endangered or threatened.
The plaintiffs also agreed in court documents signed Tuesday that they will not file more complaints with the West Virginia Public Service Commission over siting certificates for the project.
(This version CORRECTS the number of turbines being abandoned to 24)
Tags: Animal Welfare, Animals, Corporate Crime, Energy And The Environment, Mammals, Maryland, Morgantown, North America, Products And Services, United States, West Virginia, Wildlife