Greenbrier wind project agreement reached
An electrical wind facility in northern Greenbrier County will be allowed to operate, but on a smaller scale than originally planned, under an agreement reached as part of a federal lawsuit.
The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) and Mountain Communities for Responsible Energy (MCRE) filed suit against Beech Ridge Energy, LLC in October, claiming the company's planned 124 wind turbines would kill endangered Indiana Bats.ﾠ
In December, U.S. District Court Judge Roger Titus ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and ordered a halt to project construction. The order required Beech Ridge to obtain an Incidental Take Permit (ITP) from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service before more turbines could be built. Forty turbines that had already been built were allowed to operate, but only between November 15 and April 1 - the bats' hibernation period.
In a motion for reconsideration, Beech Ridge asked the court to allow construction of 27 additional turbines and to allow turbine operation during daytime when bats are unlikely to be present, while the company sought an ITP.
As a result of negotiations after Beech Ridge's request for reconsideration, the parties reached agreement on January 26.ﾠ
Under the agreement, Beech Ridge will be allowed to construct up to 100 turbines, but will "abandon forever" 21 easternmost turbine sites on Loop Mountain and 10 southernmost turbine sites on Nunly Mountain.ﾠ The turbines will be allowed to operateﾠ continuously between November 16 to March 31 and during daylight hours the rest of the year.
Beech Ridge still must obtain an ITP from the Fish and Wildlife Service, which could contain additional mitigation measures to protect the endangered bats.
MCRE executive director Dave Buhrman issued the following statement on January 27:
"While MCRE and its supporters remain convinced that massive installation of industrial wind turbines on forested ridges will create more problems than it will solve, we believe our actions have sent a vitally needed message to the wind industry as a whole. Renewable energy projects do not get a pass on existing laws designed to protect endangered species and the natural environment.
"And, although industrial wind turbines will now spin atop some of Greenbrier Countyﾒs highest ridges, they will forever be banned on those ridges in closest proximity to endangered Indiana bat caves."