Friday, September 13, 2013

Problems with the USFWS Land-Based Wind Energy Guidelines

Problems with the USFWS Land-Based Wind Energy Guidelines
Yesterday, we discussed the change in HMANA’s support for the new Land-Based Wind Energy Guidelines (LBWEG).  One of the problems with the LBWEG for siting wind turbines is that compliance with them, including detailed consultation with the USFWS, is voluntary. The eagle take-permitting process can be seen as a strategy to address this deficiency, an enticement to developers to work with the USFWS in siting and developing energy projects. 
The USFWS grants incidental take permits based on a developer’s commitment to incorporate specific features and standards in their projects and perhaps engage in certain activities that mitigate any harm to eagles as a result of any specific project. In theory, the developer is protected from prosecution for any incidental killing, injuring or interfering with Bald or Golden Eagles caused by the project.  In exchange for this benefit, the USFWS is able to influence the siting, development and implementation of projects.  
Currently, incidental take permits must be renewed every five years, but the service is proposing to extend the life of a take permit to 30 years.  While  this extension may further encourage developers to engage with the USFWS through the permitting process, HMANA feels this extension:  
  • neutralizes the effectiveness of post-construction mortality monitoring 
  • protects the developer from submitting to public review of a project’s actual harm to eagles
  • protects the developer from a review of the project’s compliance with the conditions of the take permit.  
As a result of these concerns, HMANA opposes any extension of the time period for take permits that removes the opportunity and necessity for periodic public review.  Further, HMANA finds the current five-year life span of take permits to be appropriate.
Next:  American Bird Conservancy’s actions on take permits

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