A federal judge has ruled that work must stop at a West Virginia wind farm in order to protect federally endangered Indiana bats. Federal District Court Judge Roger Titus of the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland issued a ruling that Invenergy and Beech Ridge Energy's wind energy facility in Greenbrier County, W.Va., could harm endangered Indiana bats, in violation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
The court concluded that ‘the development of wind energy can and should be encouraged, but wind turbines must be good neighbors.’
The court says that the developers could have sought a permit under the ESA that would ‘allow their project to proceed in harmony, with the goal of avoidance of harm to endangered species.’ The ESA provides for the issuance of permits that authorize projects in endangered species habitat, but only when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service attaches strict and enforceable conditions designed to minimize the impact on imperiled species.
Invenergy says it plans to take the steps necessary to complete the project.
‘Invenergy continues to be committed to the Beech Ridge project and to bringing clean renewable energy to West Virginia,’ says Joe Condo, vice president and general counsel at Invenergy. ‘As ordered by the judge, we will approach the Fish and Wildlife Service and begin the Incidental Take Permit process so that we can complete the project. We are very optimistic that the permit will be granted and the project can reach its full potential.’
According to the Animal Welfare Institute – one of the plaintiffs in the case, along with Mountain Communities for Responsible Energy, and caving enthusiast Dave Cowan – the court relied on testimony by bat biologists Thomas Kunz of Boston University, Michael Gannon of Penn State and Lynn Robbins of Missouri State University.
The court enjoined the construction of any additional wind turbines and prohibited the operation of all existing turbines between April 1 and Nov. 15 until an Incidental Take Permit is obtained. Per an earlier agreement between the parties and the court, 40 of the 122 planned wind turbines have been erected to date, and those are generally farthest from known winter populations of Indiana bats.