Conservation Groups Sue To Block Md. Wind Farm

GREENBELT, Md. (AP) — 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.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

  • Henry

    If they can’t get a permit for western MD They can put one in my back yard. I can’t believe people complain about our dependence on oil and then cry when BGE tries to put up a windfarm

  • Dave

    Don’t be so quick to judge, Henry. Bats have a massively important role in the ecosystem, not least because they eat massive amounts of insects and are a primary vehicle of spreading seeds – a vehicle many plants rely upon utterly. Not to mention that many many typs of bats are very much endangered – including the Indiana Bat.

    It may seem slightly counter-intuitive at face value, but putting wind farms somewhere where they’re going to hurt the ecosystem they’re meant to protect is what’s truly counter-intuitive.

  • joe

    So give them a choice. Either a coal-fired power plant or a wind farm.

    • Bill

      How about finding a location where there is less of an ecological impact?

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  • sandpiper

    Put up the wind farm then hire the coal miners that lose their jobs; give them a net and a bag of seeds. Then send them out to catch insects with the net and while they’re out running around they can spread the seeds.

  • Doug

    OK,sue,then what?You don’t want nuclear.You complain of coal. And I bet must people in this so called conservation group have more then two kids.Which makes them total hypocrites .You want to conserve,start having smaller families.

  • Mystick

    There’s already a wind farm just over the border in WV, literally yards from the state line, adjacent to a power plant right past the very tip of MD. This is adjacent to the proposed site for the MD turbines. You can see them along the ridges for 30 miles. This protest is another example of how “conservation” groups are more about blocking any kind of progress, being anti-corporate, and as loud as possible while simultaneously promoting the same technology. Its hypocritical.

  • KottaMan

    For what it’s worth, these installations are very large and can be seen for miles. The towers alone are anywhere from 200 to 350 feet in height with turbines having diameters of around 75 feet. Each tower needs approximately two acres of ground cleared off as well. The ultimate “insult” aside from ruining the mountaintops is that NONE of that energy benefits western Maryland at all. The energy is to be sold by Constellation to the highest bidder. In the end, the juice may not even benefit Marylanders anywhere.

  • David

    Since 50% of the United States energy comes from burning coal because its a fairly cheap and easy way to power our country, it is a logical idea to start wind farms in as many places as possible. This is based on the premise that World War 3, etc. will not destroy all the wind farms. Across 100 years it will be significantly cheaper to rely as much as possible on wind farms.This article is yet one more reason why coal is going to continually be a major power source in our country. We are not alone. China with its sprawling infrastructure and growth, although it is fueling the world economic recovery, is building and using an enormous amount of new coal burning power plants. If the bats in Garrett County could conceptualize this and communicate their feelings I’d bet they would laugh at all this. Meanwhile, I am personally nearly homeless, but making a small amount of money investing in commodities like crude oil that has gone from $35 to about $92.00 today in part due to some interesting bats that live and thrive in the beautiful mountains of Garrett County.Happy Holidays to all! Don’t drink and drive and use your Bluetooths.I received a traumatic brain injury and nearly died 18months ago and have been unemployed since because of how you f%&$&^# idiots drive.

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