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Conservationists file lawsuit to stop Western Maryland wind farm

GREENBELT — Some conservationists have filed a federal lawsuit seeking to block the startup of Maryland’s first industrial wind farm because it allegedly threatens federally protected Indiana bats.

The complaint filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt seeks to stop Baltimore-based Constellation Energy Group Inc. from beginning operation of its 28 turbines on Backbone Mountain in Garrett County unless the company first obtains an “incidental take permit” from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for any Indiana bats that might be hit or injured by the spinning blades.

Constellation spokesman Kevin Thornton said the company has consulted with federal wildlife officials and is in the process of applying for the permit. He said a study is under way to determine what harm the turbines might do to the endangered bats, and Constellation hopes to have federal approval by spring.

A similar lawsuit brought in the same Greenbelt court last year forced developers of a West Virginia wind project to reduce the number of planned turbines after the judge ruled that Indiana bats hibernating in the area almost certainly would be harmed by the blades. The West Virginia developer also agreed not to operate the turbines at night or at times of year when the bats would be flying until it obtained federal permits.

The four plaintiffs in the new lawsuit are the Baltimore-based Maryland Conservation Council; council Vice President Ajax Eastman; the Oakland-based group Save Western Maryland; and environmental activist D. Daniel Boone of Bowie.

They claim they wind turbines, with blades extending 415 feet high, will “almost certainly” injure or kill Indiana bats.

The small brownish-black mammals range across much of the eastern United States, but their population is so low and thinly spread that federal officials consider them at risk of extinction. Listening equipment Constellation set up while building the turbines this year detected calls of Indiana bats. The lawsuit contends there is a “robust population” of Indiana bats that hibernates in a cave 13 miles from the project site.

Eric Robison, co-founder of Save Western Maryland, told The Baltimore Sun the lawsuit is meant to press Constellation to follow through with its public pledge to get the federal permit.

“They’ve claimed that they’re very good corporate citizens, and that they were looking to be environmentally sound in their practices,” said Robison, who lives on the mountain near the Constellation wind project.

He said a similar lawsuit will likely be filed to block another industrial wind project on Backbone Mountain built by the Synergics Group of Annapolis. Synergics has said there are no endangered bats near its 20 turbines a short distance away, so the company doesn’t plan to seek a federal permit.

Leopoldo Miranda, supervisor of the wildlife service’s Chesapeake field office in Annapolis, said that while endangered bats have been detected near Constellation’s turbines, their numbers don’t appear to be as great as in the West Virginia case.

4 comments

  1. Let me see if I understand this correctly.

    Bats, who are consumate arial acrobats and equipped with the most sensitive radar and can find a minusicle gnat in the dark night, intercept and cath and eat it, all while flying at top speed.

    And conservationists (who supposedly are familiar with the bat’s radar detection and flying ability, as good biologist should be) are afraid that these little rascals will ignore a HUGE wid turbine blade that spins at probably one tenth the speed of a flying gnat and that they might commit suicide by wind turbine blade.

    How stupid can you get??

  2. Not only has Mr. Schuld made up his unscholarly and speculatively erroneous theories on the maneuverability and radar “like” characteristics of bats; but he’s also either naively (or purposefully) unaware that across America, there is a growing body of recorded and verified evidence documenting bat kills by wind turbine blades.

  3. Mr. Schuld’s theories on the maneuverability and radar capabilities of Bats are contradicted by the growing body of recorded and verified evidence that has documented Bat kills by wind turbine blades.

    The judge in the West Virginia case would not have protected the Indiana Bat, without evidence that the species had been previously harmed by wind turbines.

  4. Mr Schuld should spend some time examining the record. Nearby by this project are two Big Industrial Wind Projects that have the largest bat kills in the United States. (Mountaineer Project – WV) and the Myersdale Project – Pa)
    While it appears the blades turn slow, the blades approach speeds of almost 200 mph. Journal research studies indicated bats may be attracted to the spinning blades.
    This project has been proposed since 2001. Constellation energy is a $15.6 billion dollar Fortune 500 company. One would think this company, would have spent a few dollars and a few years of pre-construction wildlife studies before they began the project.
    Yes, bats do cross-geographical and political boundaries. Yes, there is a cumulative impact.
    Thank you Save Western Maryland and others. Contribute to Save Western Maryland. Stop the madness. Big Industrial Wind is not predictable or is reliable.
    Don’t forget Maryland you will be paying for these project because Constellation has entered into a 20 year agreement to purchase this false green energy.
    Read Allegheny Treasures: http://alleghenytreasures.wordpress.com/