Displaying items by tag: golden eagle
Project could receive green light as soon as November 14, putting threatened species such as Marbled Murrelet and other wildlife at risk
(Washington, D.C., November 13, 2019) The Humboldt Wind Energy Project proposes to place 47 wind turbines on Bear River and Monument Ridges in Humboldt County, California. This proposed project poses substantial risks to federally Threatened species, such as Marbled Murrelet and Spotted Owl, as well as other species of conservation concern such as Bald and Golden Eagle, all of which reproduce slowly and are vulnerable to loss of individuals to collisions with turbines. Other concerns have also been raised by experts, including questionable calculations of the numbers of Threatened birds likely to be killed by the turbines; inadequate proposed measures to compensate for mortality of birds and other wildlife; and insufficient accountability for long-term monitoring and protection of wildlife. Despite this, the proposal has moved forward quickly over the last 18 months and may be approved as early as Thursday, November 14.
“It’s hard to conceive of a worse place to put wind turbines,” said Joel Merriman, Director of the Bird-Smart Wind Energy Program at American Bird Conservancy (ABC). “ABC supports wind energy projects that provide adequate protections for birds. The Humboldt Wind Energy Project doesn’t come close. In its 37-page comment letter, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife indicated that ‘all or portions of the wind turbine facilities fall into Category 4, Project Sites Inappropriate for Wind Development.’ We couldn’t agree more.”
The Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) on the Humboldt project was released in April 2019 and received many comments and suggestions from local experts that would have reduced impacts to birds and other wildlife. These have largely gone unheeded in the Final EIR (FEIR). Despite this, the Humboldt County Planning Commission held a public hearing on November 7 and will hold a second on November 14, with a possible vote for project approval on the 14th. The project has been put on a fast track: Stakeholders had only four business days to review the FEIR before the first hearing and will have only nine days before the hearing where the proposal may be approved. Reviewing the FEIR is no small task, since the combined documents amount to hundreds of pages.
“The Northcoast Environmental Center (NEC), along with many concerned citizens, participated in commenting on the Terra-Gen Humboldt Wind Energy Project DEIR,” said Larry Glass, President and Executive Director of the NEC. “Whether you support this project or you have serious questions about it, the developer’s response to public comments printed in the FEIR is completely inadequate. Many of the issues of concern to the NEC and others were dismissed or not sufficiently responded to. This document should be withdrawn until adequate responses can be provided.”
“This proposed project site overlaps the National Audubon Society-designated Cape Mendocino Grasslands Important Bird Area,” said Merriman. “It’s also a hotspot for hawks and eagles. It’s close to Marbled Murrelet critical habitat. Marbled Murrelets and Spotted Owls are known to be present in the area. The list of concerns goes on and on.”
“Because of the high likely impacts given the sensitive area, the public rightly demands that all feasible technology to avoid and minimize impacts be implemented before considering approval,” said Tom Wheeler, Executive Director of the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC). “But too many proven measures have been left on the table — things that have been adopted, often voluntarily, at other wind projects. We expect better here in Humboldt.”
In contrast, the Skookumchuck Wind Energy Project in western Washington State is the only approved wind energy project in the Marbled Murrelet’s breeding range. This project was required to curtail (turn off) turbines during high activity periods in the Marbled Murrelet breeding season. The Humboldt project, on the other hand, dismissed the idea of curtailment entirely, ignoring best practices and industry precedent despite posing a significant risk for a multitude of species.
ABC, EPIC, and the NEC support thoughtfully planned wind energy projects that incorporate adequate protections for birds. These organizations acknowledge the role of wind energy in combating climate change, but maintain that wind energy must be developed in a way that does not cause new environmental problems.
“This proposed project does not provide enough information, proposes inadequate mitigation, and ignores precedent and best practices. This puts too many rare and iconic bird and other wildlife species at unnecessary risk,” said Merriman. “We urge the Humboldt County Planning Commission to please send this project back to the drawing board until an acceptable proposal can be developed.”
American Bird Conservancy is a non-profit organization dedicated to conserving birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With an emphasis on achieving results and working in partnership, we take on the greatest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on rapid advancements in science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats, and build capacity for bird conservation. Find us on abcbirds.org, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (@ABCbirds).
The Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) advocates for the protection and restoration of Northwest California’s forests, using an integrated, science-based approach, combining public education, citizen advocacy, and strategic litigation.
The Northcoast Environmental Center has engaged in conservation and environmental protection in northwestern California for over 47 years. Our mission includes educating agencies and the public about environmental concerns that may have an effect on our local resources and citizens.
Feds' Violation of Environmental Laws Cited
Bald Eagle, Chris Hill/Shutterstock
(Washington, D.C., August 12, 2015) The U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, in San Jose has ruled that the Department of the Interior violated federal laws when it created a final regulation allowing wind energy and some other companies to obtain 30-year permits to kill protected Bald and Golden Eagles without prosecution by the federal government. The court decision invalidates the rule.
American Bird Conservancy (ABC), a plaintiff in the lawsuit, hailed the decision. “We are pleased that the courts agreed with us that improper shortcuts were taken in the development of this rule,” said Dr. Michael Hutchins, Director of ABC’s Bird Smart Wind Energy Program. “The court found that important laws meant to protect our nation’s wildlife were not properly followed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, putting Bald and Golden Eagles at greater risk.”
The court wrote: “… substantial questions are raised as to whether the Final 30-Year Rule may have a significant adverse effect on bald and golden eagle populations.”
In particular, the courts cited a lack of compliance with the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA). "We’re ready to work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to conduct the required NEPA analysis and formulate a better system to protect eagles from poorly-sited wind energy projects,” said Hutchins. “We must come up with a better system to assess the potential risks to birds and bats prior to a project’s siting and construction and to track and mitigate project impacts post-construction.”
The previous “eagle take” rule, adopted in 2009, provided for a maximum duration of five years for each permit to kill eagles. A key part of the court’s ruling held that: “… FWS has failed to show an adequate basis in the record for deciding not to prepare an EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) — much less an EA (Environmental Assessment) — prior to increasing the maximum duration for programmatic eagle take permits by sixfold.”
“ … While promoting renewable energy projects may well be a worthy goal,” the ruling continued, “it is no substitute for the [agency’s] obligations to comply with NEPA and to conduct a studied review and response to concerns about the environmental implications of major agency action. … Accordingly, the Court holds that FWS violated NEPA’s procedural requirements and that the Final 30-Year Rule must therefore be set aside and remanded to FWS for further consideration.”
The court cited concerns that had been raised by FWS staff during development of the 30-year eagle rule, stating: “The record [in the case] bolsters the Court’s conclusion, as FWS’s failure to adequately ‘address concerns raised by its own experts’ is cause for the Court to find a NEPA violation.”
ABC filed the lawsuit on June 19, 2014 in federal court against the Department of the Interior, alleging multiple violations of federal law in connection with the December 9, 2013 rulemaking. ABC contended that DOI violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, and other statutes.
ABC believes that wind energy and other renewable energy sources can be encouraged without putting Bald and Golden Eagles, and other protected wildlife, at risk. Proper siting of turbines is critical: New ABC-funded research has revealed that more than 30,000 wind turbines have been installed in areas critical to the survival of federally-protected birds in the United States and that more than 50,000 additional turbines are planned for construction in similar areas.
“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is one of ABC’s most important partners,” said ABC President George Fenwick. “We collaborate frequently, share many goals, and have enjoyed many successes together. However, FWS is encountering unprecedented financial constraints that lead to shortcuts and poor decisions. We hope that this court decision shines a light on the need for the Service to be fully empowered to do the job it is mandated to do. Our nation’s wildlife – and the agency appointed to protect it – deserve nothing less.”
ABC is represented by the Washington, D.C. public interest law firm of Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal.
ABC's efforts to establish Bird Smart wind energy in the U.S. are made possible in part by the generous support of the Leon Levy Foundation.
American Bird Conservancy is the Western Hemisphere’s bird conservation specialist—the only organization with a single and steadfast commitment to achieving conservation results for native birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With a focus on efficiency and working in partnership, we take on the toughest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on sound science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats, and build capacity for bird conservation.