The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Local News

January 27, 2010

Beech Ridge development to proceed

Federal judge approves plan to protect wildlife

Construction of the Beech Ridge wind farm will proceed immediately, following the approval Tuesday by a federal judge of a settlement between the project’s developer and environmentalists who sought to derail the Greenbrier County venture.

U.S. District Judge Roger Titus approved an agreement between Chicago-based Invenergy Wind LLC and wildlife groups to protect endangered Indiana bats, thus ending the litigation which began in June.

The Animal Welfare Institute, Mountain Communities for Responsible Energy and David Cowan, a Frankford resident, claimed in their lawsuit that Invenergy would likely be responsible for the killing, injury and other forms of “taking” of the federally protected bats in violation of the Endangered Species Act if the project were to proceed.

Titus ruled in December that the Beech Ridge developer would have to seek an incidental take permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Those permits are required when a project might harm endangered or threatened wildlife.

Invenergy has already started the permit process, according to Joe Condo, vice president and general counsel for the company.

In the meantime, 40 turbines are in place along Beech Ridge, with up to an additional 27 planned while the permit application works its way through the bureaucracy. According to an Invenergy news release, the project is allowed to operate year-round, but will be subject to certain time-of-day restrictions during seasons when Indiana bats are out of hibernation until the incidental take permit is issued.

The agreement also allows Beech Ridge to expand this initial phase of the project by an additional 33 turbines, which like the 27 now in the planning stage, will be sited according to a configuration that was altered under the terms of the agreement.

“Based on the existing layout, that’s down from 120 (turbines in the initial phase),” Condo said. “We can top out at 100 turbines.”

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