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The Chapter supports the Beech Ridge Windfarm PSC site Certificate...WITH CONDITIONS
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by Jim Kotcon and Paul Wilson | 2006

The following letter was sent to the West Virginia Public Service Commission on August 10, 2006

Wind energy has become controversial in West Virginia. Concerns about bird and bat collisions, visual impacts, and habitat loss have put pressure on commercial wind farm developers to justify their proposals.

Greenbrier County’s Beech Ridge wind farm has been embroiled in the debate for months, as the developer, Invenergy, seeks a Certificate of Site Approval from the WV Public Service Commission.

After meeting with company officials, discussions with wind farm opponents, and a thorough review of technical documents, both pro and con, the West Virginia Chapter’s ExCom voted unanimously to support the Beech Ridge application to the PSC, provided certain conditions were imposed to protect wildlife habitat. These include requirements for pre-construction surveys for endangered species, post-construction monitoring for bird and bat impacts, limits on land disturbance, and bonds to enforce these conditions and to provide for site reclamation.

These conditions certainly will not satisfy wind farm opponents, and visual impacts to the viewshed will remain. However, no energy source is perfect, and these were considered a reasonable trade-off for clean-renewable energy.

A decision on the Siting Certificate is due from the PSC by August 29.  A copy of the Chapter's letter to the PSC is posted below:

       West Virginia Chapter                                        
                                                         Paul Wilson, Chair
                                                         August 10, 2006

Sandra Squire, Executive Secretary
Public Service Commission of West Virginia
201 Brooks Street
Charleston, WV 25323

RE: Case No. 05-1590-E-CS
Beech Ridge Energy, LLC,

Dear Ms. Squire:

I am writing on behalf of the 2000+ members of the West Virginia Chapter of Sierra Club with regard to the application of Beech Ridge Energy, LLC for a Certificate of Site Approval.  The Sierra Club supports renewable energy nationally, and in West Virginia.  Due to the controversy over the siting of commercial wind farms in West Virginia, we have engaged in a lengthy and careful review of the available information regarding their impacts, as well as the impacts of alternative energy sources.

At the Executive Committee meeting of August 5, 2006, a motion to support the application of Beech Ridge Energy LLC for a Certificate of Site Approval from the PSC was adopted unanimously, with conditions.  We recommend that the application be approved and that the following conditions be included in the Commission’s Order granting the Certificate.

1.    Beech Ridge must conduct pre-construction surveys for Threatened and Endangered species, using protocols approved by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 

2.    If listed species are found, construction in such habitat must be prohibited.  In addition, a Habitat Conservation Plan must be approved by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service before construction begins.

3.    Post-construction surveys for bird and bat impacts must be conducted for three years, as recommended by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

4.    If post construction surveys identify adverse impacts, wind farm operations must be curtailed during periods of peak activity (bird migrations, bat maternity seasons, etc.)

5.    Limits to land surface disturbance should be established to minimize visual and habitat impacts.

6.    Posting of a bond sufficient to enforce the above conditions should be required. 

7.    Posting of an additional bond sufficient to cover expenses of land reclamation if and when the facility ceases operation.

Wind energy has substantially fewer environmental impacts than fossil fuel or nuclear energy, and has the potential to provide a significant proportion of America’s electricity needs at competitive prices.  Compared to coal-fired power plants, wind creates no air pollution, does not contribute to global warming, produces no acid mine drainage, does not require mountaintop removal mining, and is substantially less noisy than either coal-fired power plants, or coal surface mines.  We recognize that all energy sources have some environmental impacts, and that the impacts to viewsheds are perceived negatively by some, but the Club believes that this is a reasonable trade-off for clean renewable energy-generating facilities that are appropriately sited.

We also recognize that past wind farms have produced some adverse impacts, and believe that the above conditions are necessary, reasonable, and consistent with past PSC Orders.  The conditions for surveys and limits on operations are essential to protect bird and bat populations.  Limits on land disturbance are also important in order to prevent operators from clearing a much larger land area than is needed for actual construction, as occurred at the Mountaineer facility in Tucker County.  The bonding requirement is essential to assure compliance.  It is a mechanism that the PSC used with the Longview Power plant, and would give the company the proper incentive to conduct the bird and bat studies and to limit land disturbance, using a procedure that is enforceable using existing PSC staff and resources

These conditions would address legitimate concerns in an enforceable manner, and result in a project with substantially fewer adverse impacts than other electric generating projects recently approved by the Commission.  We urge the Commission to include these conditions and issue the Certificate of Site Approval.

Sincerely,

(signed)

Paul Wilson
Chapter Chair
WV Sierra Club
504 Jefferson Ave
Charles Town, WV  25414

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