Cumberland Times-News

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November 26, 2013

Opposition arises over Fair Wind application

Proposed project would construct up to 15 turbines on Backbone Mountain

OAKLAND — The Maryland Public Service Commission has received multiple emails in opposition to Fair Wind Power Partners LLC’s application to construct up to 15 wind turbines on Backbone Mountain. A majority of the emails indicate that the wind project would just be an extension of the Criterion Wind project, which is the deadliest industrial wind project in North America for bats and birds.

“It is well known that the two other wind projects on Backbone Mountain in Maryland kill thousands of migrating bats and hundreds of birds annually,” wrote the Savage River Watershed Association Board of Directors in an email to David Collins, executive secretary of the PSC. “The cumulative effects of bat and bird mortality of such projects are staggering, and concerns have been expressed about possible endangerment of hoary, red and silver-haired bats from the proliferation of these projects.”

A study of the Criterion Wind project that was conducted by Criterion Power Partners LLC from April to November 2012 determined that 28 birds representing 12 species and 82 bats representing five species were found either during standardized carcass searches or incidentally during the study period. The most commonly found bird species were red-eyed vireo and golden-crowned kinglet, while Eastern red bat and hoary bat accounted for the majority of the bat fatalities found. The number of bird and bat fatalities peaked in the fall. CPP is a subsidiary of Exelon Wind, a division of Exelon Power, owner of the Criterion project.

Golden eagles that migrate along the ridgelines are also suspectible to being struck by the wind turbines, according to the SRWA board. The proposed Fair Wind project will kill more migratory birds, which is a violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (1918), according to Mike Herdering, Accident resident.

“These detrimental effects are compounded by each new wind project. ... the developers have no Incidental Take Permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as required by law for the incidental mortality of federally listed species,” writes the SRWA board.   

An ITP is required under the Endangered Species Act when activities will likely result in the killing or disturbance of a threatened or endangered species.

“These types of projects keep chipping away at the biodiversity of Maryland, species by species, habitat by habitat, all in the name of greed and a misconception that somehow we are going to solve our energy dilemma or provide some economic benefit,” wrote Edward and Donna Gates of Frostburg Road in an email to Collins.

Those in opposition to the Fair Wind project also voiced concerns that Fair Wind Power Partners hasn’t provided a plat showing the location of the proposed wind turbine pads, lacks numerous required permits from the county as well as a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit from the Maryland Department of the Environment. Fair Wind’s application only shows a geographic site and Paul Durham suggested that the Nov. 14 public hearing on the project be delayed until a plat showing the turbine pad locations is submitted or exhibited at the public hearing and posted online for public comment.

Terry Romine, PSC chief utility law judge, suggested that the PSC address the complaint that Fair Wind project is an extension of the Criterion Wind project as well as obtain additional information from Fair Wind in regard to the need for an ITP and whether they plan to obtain one. Romine also suggested that the PSC address Durham’s request for a plat and post the plat online and allow an additional period to provide written public comments.

In August, Fair Wind Power Partners LLC, a subsidiary of Exelon Generation Co., filed for an application with the PSC for up to 15 wind turbines along the top of Backbone Mountain.

 In 2010, Save Western Maryland, the lead organization, the law firm of Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal in Washington, D.C., and other organizations filed a lawsuit against Constellation, Criterion and Clipper for not filing for an ITP from the USFWS. The group decided to delay the trial so that Constellation could file for an ITP for the Indiana bat, which it did in December 2011.

USFWS is reviewing the ITP application, conducting the National Environmental Policy Act analysis and preparing documents associated with a permit issuance decision, according to its website.

The lawsuit was filed because endangered Indiana bats were present on the southern end of the Constellation project, where Fair Wind is also, according to Eric Robison of Save Western Maryland. Also, the Virginia big-eared bat, which is a federally listed endangered species, is also in the vicinity of the Fair Wind project, according to Arthur Dodds Jr., president of the Laurel Mountain Preservation Association of Montrose, W.Va.

“There is simply no need for the industrial-scale wind turbine facility. No amount of money could be worth the cumulative environmental damage to Maryland,” wrote Dodds.

Criterion’s Habitat Conservation Plan states that during initial consultations with USFWS it was determined that the Virgina big-eared bat is unlikely to occur within the wind project and the wind project is unlikely to kill that species. The plan claims that there are no known Virginia big-eared bat caves or occurrences in Maryland.

In 2012, Criterion began implementing the draft plan, which included a commitment to reduce wind turbine rotations to minimize the impact to bats. From July 15, 2012, to October 15, 2012, the turbine blades were feathered to minimize rotation to less than two rotations per minute during periods when wind speeds were equal to or less than 5.0 meters per second. The turbine operation constraints resulted in approximately a 51 percent reduction in bat mortality.

Criterion’s plan has committed to achieving a 50 percent reduction in overall bat mortality as a measure to minimize the potential take of Indiana bat from the project. “No take of Indiana bat has been documented either during the 2011 monitoring study or this year (2012) of monitoring,” the Criterion report stated.

Contact Elaine Blaisdell at eblaisdell@times-news.com.

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