In a stand against wind power plants built in a specific area of the Golden State that is home to various birds and bats, the National Audubon Society recently announced that it is suing a California county. The environmental group said its reason for doing this was to improve bird protections.
Along with the National Audubon Society, other chapters including Ohlone, Golden Gate, Mounty Diablo, and Santa Clara Valley have joined in the lawsuit in Alameda County Superior Court. The suit challenges Alameda County’s approval of a new, 80-megawatt wind turbine facility at Altamont Pass.
The environmental group argues that the project didn’t have sufficient environmental review and is failing to assess and avoid impacts to birds and bats. This is the first time that the National Audubon Society has sued to try to stop the approval of a wind project in California.
The key concern is that the Altamont Pass is home to the densest nesting population of golden eagles in the world as well as several other birds species. The group is worried that the wind project could contribute to the overall decline of golden eagles in the region. Altamont Pass is the largest wind resource area in the US, and 5,000 turbines built over 56-square miles there in the early 1980s are expected to be responsible for this decline.
The Audubon Society’s post noted that Altamont Pass has killed so many golden eagles that it’s basically like a black hole for the species.
Mike Lynes, California state policy director for the National Audubon Society, noted that the group supports wind projects that are responsibly developed. It has for many years. It’s just opposed to wind farms built in areas that make them very harmful to birds, especially rare birds.
“Audubon supports responsibly developed wind projects and works collaboratively with wind developers that are authentically interested in avoiding impacts to birds, but we have been forced to file this lawsuit because Alameda County has broken its commitments and failed to protect birds and bats in the Altamont Pass for forty years.
“Alameda County approved a poorly planned project that they know will kill golden eagles and other birds in violation of state and federal laws and that will contribute to the continuing declines of golden eagles and other sensitive species.”
Glenn Phillips, Executive Director of the Golden Gate Audubon Society, added:
“Fifteen years ago, Alameda County and the wind companies settled a lawsuit with the Audubon chapters and committed to reduce bird deaths by 50% by 2009. With the approval of this project, the County is putting the Altamont Pass back on pace to kill as many golden eagles as it did 15 years ago.
“Despite admitting they haven’t reduced bird deaths by 50%, the County wouldn’t even convene that their Technical Advisory Committee to receive recommendations before making a final decision. Instead, the County relied entirely on advice from Brookfield’s environmental consultant.”
William Hoppe, Chair of the Ohlone Audubon Society Board of Directors, emphasized that they were tired of the county breaking its promises to protect wildlife while carelessly catering to the wishes of wind developers.
“People in Alameda County want to see responsibly-sited renewable energy, but we’re tired of the county breaking its promises to protect wildlife and doing whatever the wind developers want. It’s time for some balance, where Alameda County listens to wildlife experts to ensure that wind projects avoid and reduce harms to birds and bats to the fullest extent possible.”
Ariana Rickard, Vice President of the Mount Diablo Audubon Society, noted that the need for renewable energy doesn’t mean that we should wipe out local populations of wildlife. There are enough other places to put wind farms and solar farms, and things can be done to protect wildlife.
“We at Audubon understand better than anyone that climate change presents an existential threat to people and birds, and responsible renewable energy development is essential to transitioning from fossil fuels. But the need for renewable energy is not an excuse to drive wipe out local populations of wildlife. Wind companies are making billions and can afford to ensure projects are responsibly sited and include adequate mitigations to reduce impacts to sensitive species.”
Matthew Dodder, Executive Director of Santa Clara Valley Audubon, pointed out that the county and the developer refused to adopt science-based recommendations that were given by top experts from the US and California government.
“Alameda County and Brookfield refused to adopt the science-based recommendations of top experts from the US Fish & Wildlife Service and the California Department of Fish & Wildlife that would have reduced harm to birds and still left Brookfield with a viable project. We are only asking that Alameda County fulfill its promises to conduct objective, science-based reviews of projects and ensure that they are properly sized, sited, and mitigated to minimize harm to birds and bats.”
Don't want to miss a cleantech story? Sign up for daily news updates from CleanTechnica on email. Or follow us on Google News!
Have a tip for CleanTechnica, want to advertise, or want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.