Cumberland Times-News

March 26, 2013

Fourmile Ridge would have enormous impact


Cumberland Times-News

— The Maryland Conservation Council requested a denial of exemption from the requirement to obtain a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity for the Fourmile Wind Energy LLC and Synergics Wind Energy LLC project No. 9315.

Our reasons are not unlike those we have posited before the Public Service Commission in the past, however this time the conditions are even more severe and in need of denial than before.

Our position has been confirmed by the National Academy of Science, that states “The construction and maintenance of wind-energy facilities alter ecosystem structure, through vegetation clearing, soil disruption, and potential for erosion, and this is particularly problematic in areas that are difficult to reclaim. In the Mid-Atlantic Highlands forest clearing represents perhaps the most significant potential change through fragmentation and loss of habitat for forest-dependent species.”

Indeed, the Fourmile Ridge project in the Mid Atlantic Highlands would create enormous impacts on a particularly sensitive environment, especially the Callahan Swamp Natural Heritage area lodged between the two arms of the proposed development, but would also adversely affect the headwaters of the Savage River its first order streams that would be impacted by soil erosion and runoff.

The unfragmented forests along the Appalachian ridges are vital habitat for interior dwelling and breeding species.

Once large holes are punched into them for developments such as timbering, mining, fracking, or industrial wind, those species, many already either endangered, rare or threatened avian, amphibian, mammalian, or floral will either have an even greater threat to their survival, or even become extirpated.

Those forests themselves will become rarer and no longer provide important habitat.

A very large bat kill occurred at the Mountaineer wind facility along the Appalachian ridge just over the Maryland-West Virginia border a few years ago and more recently the largest bird kill by wind turbines in the country occurred at the nearby Criteron Constellation wind project.

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act prohibits the taking, killing, injuring, or capture of listed migratory birds. Bald and Golden Eagles are further protected under a separate U.S. Protection Act.

You would think that between these two Acts that the birds in question would be protected.

However, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has already issued and will undoubtedly issue more “Incidental Take” permits for new wind projects.

How can bird kills or bat kills be avoided after the turbines are already built?

Shutting down the turbines during migration would certainly lessen the turbines ability to produce energy especially since they their capacity factor is at the most 30 percent annually, and down to 10 percent or 15 percent during the summer when demand is highest ability for electricity.

The only feasible backup for reduced wind powered electricity when needed is natural gas which produces CO2, and that negates the argument that wind power is “clean.”

The Maryland Conservation Council believes that despite the fact that Wayne Rogers was able to get a law passed exempting wind projects under 70 megawatts from environmental review, we feel that it is incumbent upon the Public Service Commission to deny Synergic’s request for an exemption to the CPCN permit, especially because his project is in such a particularly vulnerable, valuable ecological niches, and would produce a meaningless amount of carbon dioxide free electricity to meet Maryland’s energy demand.

Ajax Eastman, Vice President

Maryland Conservation Council

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