9/8/11 Does Wind Industry "Green Halo" give it License to Kill? AND Does your town need a moratorium on building industrial scale wind turbines? If so, here's one! AND Brother can you spare another tax break for Big Wind? ANDGag me with an order: Public Comment shut down by BLM
OIL COMPANIES PROSECUTED FOR AVIAN DEATHS BUT WIND COMPANIES KILL BIRDS WITH IMPUNITY
SOURCE: American Bird Conservancy, www.abcbirds.org September 7, 2011
"Every year wind turbines kill hundreds of thousands of birds, including eagles, hawks, and songbirds, but the operators are being allowed to get away with it. It looks like a double standard.”
The United States Attorney in North Dakota has charged seven oil companies in seven separate cases with violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act for the illegal killing of 28 migratory birds. Yet, American Bird Conservancy – the nation’s leading bird conservation organization – reports that the wind industry, despite killing more than 400,000 birds annually, has yet to face a single charge.
The oil-related bird deaths, which included members of twelve different species, occurred between May 4 and June 20, 2011. The statutory maximum sentence for violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act is six months in federal prison and a $15,000 fine. The date for the initial appearances for the seven companies is set for September 22, 2011, in United States District Court, Bismarck, North Dakota.
“I commend the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Justice Department for enforcing the law in these cases. Oil pits are a known hazard to birds and the solutions to prevent these bird deaths are straightforward to implement,” said American Bird Conservancy President George Fenwick. “It is perplexing that similar prosecutions have yet to be brought against the operators of wind farms. Every year wind turbines kill hundreds of thousands of birds, including eagles, hawks, and songbirds, but the operators are being allowed to get away with it. It looks like a double standard.”
The Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) estimated in 2009 that about 440,000 birds were being killed by wind turbines. With an anticipated twelve-fold wind energy build-out by the year 2030, bird mortality is expected to dramatically increase in the coming years, absent significant changes in the way wind farms are sited and operated. Based on studies, one wind farm in California is estimated to have killed more than 2,000 eagles, plus thousands of other birds, yet no prosecution has been initiated for violations of federal laws protecting birds. The FWS is presently contemplating enacting voluntary – not mandatory – guidelines for the siting and operation of wind farms.
According to the Associated Press (AP), the birds died after landing in oil waste pits associated with the companies’ oil and gas extraction facilities in North Dakota. The birds land in the pits believing they are ponds and become contaminated with the oil. Birds can become poisoned and drown as a result. Court records show that all seven companies have previously been charged with similar violations.
The birds killed in the oil pits were mostly waterfowl, including Mallards, Gadwall, Northern Pintails, a Northern Shoveler, Blue-winged Teal, Common Goldeneye, Redhead and a Ring-necked Duck, but also included a Solitary Sandpiper, and Says Phoebe.
In Bismarck, United States Attorney Tim Purdon said, “These allegations of violations of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act by companies operating in North Dakota’s oil patch should be troubling to those interested in preserving North Dakota’s rich heritage of hunting and fishing and to the many oil companies who work hard to follow the laws protecting our wildlife. At the North Dakota U.S. Attorney’s Office, we are committed to enforcing laws that protect North Dakota’s outdoors and to providing companies who follow the law with a level economic playing field.”
Does your Township need to enact wind energy systems moratorium while an ordinance is being created? Here's one to look at....
ORDINANCE NO. 3-1-2010-B
An Ordinance To Impose a Temporary Stay On Construction Of Large
Wind Energy Systems In The Town Of Holland.
1. A “wind energy system” is an electricity generating facility consisting of one or more wind turbines
under common ownership or operating control, and includes substations, MET Towers, cables/wires and
other buildings accessory to such facility, whose main purpose is to supply electricity to off-site
customer(s). A “wind turbine” is a wind energy conversion system which converts wind energy into
electricity through the use of a wind turbine generator. A “large wind energy system” is a wind energy
system with turbines exceeding 170 feet in height and 100 kilowatts in nameplate capacity.
2. There is an interest in establishing wind energy systems in the Town of Holland.
3. There exist potential health and safety issues related to the construction of large wind energy systems
including, but not limited to, electrical connections, electric and magnetic fields, tower failure (falling
turbines), tower climbing, falling ice, blade thrower, flicker or shadow flicker, and noise.
4. The Town currently has an Ordinance regarding wind energy systems but Town residents have
informed the Town Board at a public hearing that the current ordinance is inadequate to protect the public
health and safety of the Town residents and that particularly the present setback requirements are
insufficient to provide reasonable protection from health effects including health effects from noise and
shadow flicker associated with wind energy systems.
5. The Town Board has been authorized under Wis. Stat. 60.10(2) ( c ) to exercise powers conferred on
Village Boards, and also has the authority to adopt zoning regulations under Wis. Stat. 60.61 and 60.62
6. The Town is beginning the process of reviewing its present ordinance and adopting an ordinance that
will provide a review and permitting process and ensure the health and safety standards for large wind
energy systems, and to adopt an ordinance that complies with Wis. Stat. 66.040( m ) ( a ) to ( c ) and
which complies with Wis. Stat. 196.378( 4g ).
7. On February 1, 2010, the Town Plan Commission conducted a public hearing preceded by publication
of a notice, regarding what process the Town should use to study and develop a large wind energy system
ordinance, and whether the Town should impose a temporary stay on the construction of large wind
energy systems while the Town is considering amendment and changes to its present ordinance. The
Town Plan Commission did recommend passing an amendment to its ordinance by creating a setback of
2,640 feet from inhabited structures for wind energy turbines and a moratorium on the construction of
said facilities be placed for one year so that the Town can study the health and safety issues associated
with wind energy systems.
8. That the Town Board on February 1, 2010 Board Meeting discussed the recommendations of the Town
Plan Commission. The Town Board proceeded to direct the attorney for the Town to draft an amendment
to the present ordinance regarding the setback from inhabited structures for wind energy turbines to be
2,640 feet from an inhabited structure and draft a moratorium for one year on the construction of said
wind energy systems, and to appoint a committee to study the wind energy ordinance and to make
suggested recommendations with regard to appropriate amendments. The Town Board has appointed a
committee to advice with regard to changes in its present ordinance regarding large wind energy facilities
to protect the health and safety of the residences of the Town and to gather information and
documentation with regard to the operation of the facilities.
9. That the State of Wisconsin has enacted 2009 Wisconsin Act 40 amending Wis. Stat. 66.0401(1m) and
other statutes regarding regulation of wind energy systems and granting rule making authority to the
Public Service Commission with advice of the wind siting council to promulgate rules that specify the
restrictions a political subdivision may impose on the installation or use of wind energy systems consistent
with the conditions specified in 66.0401(1m) (a) to ©. The subject matter of the rule shall include setback
requirements that provide reasonable protection from any health effects from noise and shadow flicker,
associated with energy systems. Such rules should also include decommissioning which may include
visual appearance, lighting, electrical connections to power grid, setback distance, maximum audio sound
levels, shadow flicker, proper means of measuring noise, interference with radio, telephone, television
signals, or other matters. A political subdivision may not place restrictions on installation or use of wind
energy systems that is more restrictive that these rules. To date, no such rules have been promulgated by
the commission therefore a stay or moratorium would protect the health and safety of the residents of the
Town until Town has amended its ordinance to adequately protect the health and safety of the Town
10. As the Public Service Commission has not yet promulgated rules that specify the restrictions that the
Town may impose on the installation or use of a wind energy system pursuant to S.S. 196.379( 4g ) of the
Wisconsin Statutes, created by Act 40, and as it is uncertain when the rules specifying such restrictions
will be promulgated by the Public Service Commission, a moratorium is necessary for the protection of the
health and safety of the residents of the Town until such rules are promulgated or until the Town has
amended its present ordinance in a manner sufficient to protect the health and safety of the public.
11. The Town Board agreed with the Town Plan Commission’s recommendation regarding the process
that should be followed to amend the present ordinance and determined that the adoption of a temporary
stay or moratorium will promote public health and safety of the people in the Town.
NOW THEREFORE, based on the above recitals and pursuant to Article XI, Section 1 of the Wisconsin
Constitution, Sections 60.22( 3 ), 61.34, 60.61 and 60.62 of the Wisconsin Statutes, and any and all other
sources of authority that authorize the adoption of this ordinance, the Town Board of Holland, Brown
County, Wisconsin, dose hereby ordain as follows:
Section 1. Temporary Wind Energy System Stay (Moratorium)
There is hereby established a temporary stay (moratorium) on the construction of large wind energy
systems in the Town. During the temporary stay provided by this ordinance it shall be unlawful to install
or construct any large wind energy system or part thereof, and the Town shall not accept or process any
applications relating to the proposed construction of any large wind energy system.
Section 2. Duration
One year from the date hereof.
Section 3. Inconsistent Ordinance Voided
All ordinances or provisions of ordinances inconsistent with or contravening the provisions of this
Ordinance are hereby temporarily voided and shall have no legal force or effect during the period that this
Ordinance is in effect.
Section 4. Scope
The temporary stay provided by this Ordinance shall apply throughout the Town.
Section 5. Severability
If any section or part of this Ordinance is adjudged to be unconstitutional, unlawful, or invalid by a
court of competent jurisdiction, the remainder of the Ordinance shall not be affected thereby.
Section 6 Effective Date
This Ordinance shall become effective upon adoption and publication or posting, as provided by law.
The above and foregoing Ordinance was duly adopted by the Town Board of the Town of Holland at a
meeting held on March 1, 2010 by a vote of 3 in favor, 0 opposed and 0 not voting.
From North Dakota
BIG UTILITES SEEK TAX CUTS FOR DEVELOPING WIND FARMS
BY BOB MERCER
SOURCE: American News Correspondent, www.aberdeennews.com
September 7, 2011
Company officials for Iberdrola Renewables asked for a complete repeal of state sales and use taxes and state contractor excise taxes instead.
PIERRE — Representatives from several large utility companies that run wind farms in South Dakota called for tax reductions Wednesday as one of the steps to encourage more wind-electricity projects in the state.
They made their suggestions to a special task force created by the Legislature to study South Dakota’s competitiveness in wind energy.
The panel plans to meet a final time Oct. 5 to develop recommendations that will be delivered to the governor and the Legislature.
“We will be here with our sleeves rolled up,” said Rep. Roger Solum, R-Watertown. He is the task force chairman.
South Dakota’s program that provides tax rebates for large construction projects expires Dec. 31, 2012.
Wind-energy projects have been some of the biggest recipients of the rebates.
The possible replacement is a discretionary grant program that takes effect in 2013 if voters statewide approve it the November 2012 general election.
Company officials for Iberdrola Renewables asked for a complete repeal of state sales and use taxes and state contractor excise taxes instead, noting there isn’t any guarantee under the grant approach.
Iberdrola’s Ben Hach said that without changes a 200-megawatt wind farm in South Dakota will face $25 million more in taxes over its lifetimethan it would in neighboring states.
One of the task force members is Pierre lawyer Brett Koenecke, whose clients include Iberdrola.
NextEra Energy Resources proposed a “back to the future” approach.
Jason Utton, a project director, suggested South Dakota restore the large-project rebate program and the tax incentives for wind projects that were in place before 2010.
He said NextEra has invested more in neighboring states than in South Dakota.
Accione Energy’s Rick Murphy highlighted some of the same points.
All three discussed transmission as a barrier too. The task force was assigned by the Legislature to look at tax policy.
Basin Electric’s Ron Rebenitsch listed taxes as No. 8 in his presentation, just ahead of regulatory environment.
His top seven were transmission, federal incentives, power markets, renewable mandates, ability to access the MISO transmission grid that serves the Midwest’s urban areas, environmental regulations and local ownership.
Much of rural South Dakota where wind farms can be located is served by the Western Area Power Administration’s grid rather than the MISO grid, and electricity producers must pay access fees twice to put their power on WAPA in order to get onto MISO to reach consumer centers such as Minneapolis-St. Paul.
“It’s transmission, transmission, transmission,” Rebenitsch said.
BLM CLAMPS DOWN ON PUBLIC COMMENT AT RENEWABLE ENERGY MEETINGS
by Chris Clarke
September 7, 2011
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has laid down the law. No Interior employee will act in opposition to public lands renewable energy development, even if opposing said development could be construed as within the person’s job description: a Park Service analyst objecting to development on the boundary of a National Park, for instance.
Faced with a storm of protest over the Interior Department’s push for renewable energy development on public land in California, the Bureau of Land Management has taken a novel approach to managing public comment on controversial projects: don’t allow any.
That was the conclusion of members of the public who attended a pair of public meetings in California in the last week. In Ocotillo on August 25, the project at issue was the Ocotillo Express wind project, which would site 155 wind turbines on 12,500 acres of mainly public land. The 465-megawatt project has stoked controversy in western Imperial County over its likely impact on bird and bat populations, as well as on the unparalleled viewscape of the Peninsular Ranges and the health of nearby residents.
But little of that controversy was expressed at the August 25 meeting. According to coverage in the Imperial Valley Press, locals in attendance found that their opportunity to comment on the project was severely limited. There was no public comment period scheduled. In order to comment on the project, attendees had to write their thoughts on a few lines on one side of a pre-printed letter-sized form, which would likely have allowed most people only about 75 words of comment. (The form did provide an email address for those who wished to make longer comments.)
Though the meeting largely proceeded as planned, there was disgruntlement among those in attendance over the apparent squelching of spoken public input. As local environmental activist Donna Tisdale told the Imperial Valley Press,
It’s like they’re trying to suppress public comment. People want to speak. They want to ask questions.
The scene replayed more fractiously a few days later on August 31, at the Primm Valley Golf Club in Ivanpah Valley, a few miles from the Nevada line and 300 miles north of Ocotillo. The occasion was a scoping meeting to gather public input on the First Solar Stateline Solar Farm, a 300-megawatt photovoltaic facility on about 2,000 acres of public land adjacent to the controversial Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating Station. The Ivanpah Valley is remote from most places in California: aside from Las Vegas, the nearest town of any size, Barstow, is across 113 miles of desert. People traveled to the meeting from as far away as Long Beach, CA and Beatty, NV to offer their input at this meeting, but were told that as was the case in Ocotillo, there would be no opportunity for public comment at the meeting.
A scoping meeting is generally held as part of the scoping process under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the federal law that regulates environmental review of potentially destructive projects. Under NEPA, the scoping process is intended to identify potential issues or alternative plans to be addressed in subsequent Environmental Assessments and Environmental Impact Statements. The whole point of a scoping meeting is to assess the wide range of potential issues a project may involve. While there is no legal requirement that an agency include public-hearing-style comment periods in a scoping meeting, such open comment meetings are generally the most efficient way of gauging public opinion on an issue, especially when the issue is controversial.
And if First Solar Stateline is a controversial project, the BLM’s choice of meeting formats proved even more controversial at the Primm Golf Club. There was widespread grumbling among attendees before the meeting even started. One BLM staffer told me somewhat defensively that there was a range of formats allowable for scoping meetings. Attendees looked askance at the unusual police presence, with both BLM rangers and San Bernardino County Sheriff’s deputies thick on the ground, armed with sidearms and Tasers. After a short presentation by First Solar’s project lead Mike Argentine, Jeff Childers, a BLM staffer from the California Desert District office in Moreno Valley, confirmed to the roomful of people — many of whom were attempting to ask questions — that public comment would not be allowed other than in writing.
The room erupted despite the heavy police presence. Kevin Emmerich from the group Basin and Range Watch stood and announced his group’s alternative proposal, an Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC) for the Ivanpah Valley. Others loudly confronted Childers on the lack of clarity in BLM communications about the meeting, the inadequacy of avenues for public comment at the meeting, and the trouble and expense to which many attendees had gone in order to attend the meeting, only to find that the BLM didn’t want to hear more than about 75 words of their input, in writing.
Childers alleged that the BLM’s intent was to allow more accurate responses to the public’s input, but then abandoned that line of reasoning within a few sentences, suggesting that another meeting might be scheduled for verbal comments from the public. This didn’t go over well among those who had traveled long distances. The meeting eventually dissolved into a few knots of people having animated discussions.
Though I did attempt to talk to BLM staff to flesh out their reasons for the shift in meeting format, they did not return my phone calls by press time.
It should be said that the scoping process is not the only opportunity for members of the public to comment on projects proposed for public lands. The Environmental Assessment and EIS processes also afford venues for comment. Still, the scoping process is an important chance for public opinion to shape a project in its very early stages. Limiting public comment to a few handwritten sentences (or to potentially longer emailed comments) unnecessarily restricts the democratic rights of people whose disabilities may interfere with writing by hand or typing, people whose written English proficiency is inadequate but who could offer substantive comments in spoken form, and people without access to the internet. In the California Desert those last two groups are heavily Latino and Native, raising troubling implications of racial discrimination.
What’s more, though a public hearing style meeting is prone to people speaking long, grandstanding, and otherwise trying the patience of meeting facilitators, it’s an effective way for interested people to hear the range of opinion and sentiment among others in attendance. The result is a very efficient sharing of ideas — something made impossible if all comments are submitted in writing.
Over the last two years, desert protection activists have heard repeatedly from nervous National Park staff, BLM rangers, and other Interior Department agency staff that Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has laid down the law. No Interior employee will act in opposition to public lands renewable energy development, even if opposing said development could be construed as within the person’s job description: a Park Service analyst objecting to development on the boundary of a National Park, for instance.
Attendees at a BLM meeting held to discuss First Solar Stateline earlier this year were informed by staff from the Needles BLM office that an urban rooftop solar alternative had been declared “off the table” by higher-ups in Washington, DC — an attempt, possibly illegal, to restrict the allowable content of public feedback. Clamping down on the age-old American tradition of speaking your piece at a public meeting seems cut from the same cloth as these previous initiatives.
Will this latest move to curtail public input on public lands projects become the California BLM’s new way of holding scoping meetings? It’s hard to say. It depends on how much push-back they get from members of the public, and perhaps from attorneys concerned over the racial or disability discrimination aspects of the new policy. In the meantime, scoping meetings have been scheduled in September for discussion of the McCoy Solar Energy Project in Riverside County, the Tylerhorse Wind Project in Kern County, and the management plan for the Amargosa River. You can exercise your rights as a US resident by attending to voice your concerns. Or trying to voice them, anyway.
Chris Clarke is an environmental writer of two decades standing. Author of Walking With Zeke, he writes regularly at his acclaimed blog Coyote Crossing and comments on desert issues here every Wednesday. He’s also a co-founder of Solar Done Right and thus doesn’t even try to pretend to be an impartial observer of solar development on California’s wildlands. He lives in Palm Springs.