A coalition of groups has asked for “immediate action to suspend the work of the” Wind Turbine Guidelines Advisory Committee of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).

The letter dated May 11, was sent to Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar and acting director of the USFWS, Rowan Gould.

The letter, in part, asks that the committee’s work be suspended “at least until you have had a chance to make a fresh evaluation of its composition and operation, and to take steps to ensure that the Committee has the genuine scientific expertise and independence necessary to develop recommendations that are truly protective of migratory birds, bats, and other wildlife resources. Otherwise, the inevitable result will be a waste of taxpayer money on an unbalanced (and hence unlawful) advisory process that will do nothing to restore the public’s faith in the ability of the government – and the Interior Department in particular – to make scientifically sound decisions untainted by the corrosive influence of industry lobbyists and representatives.”

“The Committee’s makeup continues to be dominated by wind power proponents, advocates, and industry representatives,” said Eric R. Glitzenstein of Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal, the public interest law firm representing the groups of the coalition.

“…the industry-controlled federal advisory committee established by the Bush Administration has already made it clear that it will offer up, at most, platitudes and empty rhetoric and, at worst, weak rationalizations for why the global climate crisis somehow justifies looking the other way while the wind power industry creates, or at least contributes to, another ecological crisis. Indeed, the Committee’s current draft does not begin to even acknowledge the parameters of the problem, let alone prescribe meaningful solutions for it.”

The 30-page draft recommendations issued in March, “read more as an unabashed endorsement of wind power than a rigorous effort to address the harmful – and ever growing – effects of poorly sited and constructed wind power projects on wildlife. Indeed, rather than carrying out the Committee’s charter to ‘provide advice and recommendations to the Secretary of the Interior’ regarding ‘effective measures to avoid or minimize impacts to wildlife and their habitats related to land-based wind energy facilities,’ the draft recommendations instead contain the truly remarkable suggestion that wind power projects should be held to a far less rigorous standard than other forms of energy (or other) projects. Thus, the draft asserts:

“The Committee recommends that the Secretary apply the USFWS guidelines for review of wind power development, and make management and mitigation decisions, with appropriate consideration of wind energy’s carbon reduction benefits. In addressing wind project impacts on wildlife, the Committee urges the Secretary to consider the larger effects of climate change that are posting significant and growing threats to birds and other wildlife species. For example, the IPCC recently concluded that climate change caused by human activity is likely to seriously affect terrestrial biological systems.”

A previous letter sent on January 17, 2008, expressed concerns on the composition of the Wind Turbine Guidelines Advisory Committee. It said, in part: “because the Committee as appointed by the Bush Administration was controlled by representatives of the wind power industry, and also had gaping holes in scientific expertise regarding adverse wildlife impacts, the Committee violated the requirements of the Federal Advisory Committee Act, 5 U.S.C. App. II, that all chartered advisory committees must be ‘fairly balanced in terms of the points of view represented and the functions to be performed by the advisory committee,’ and ‘will not be inappropriately influenced by … any special interest.’”

The committee’s charter “was to devise ‘effective measures to avoid or minimize impacts to wildlife and their habitats related to land-based wind energy facilities.’ Yet more than one and one-half years after the Committee’s creation it has become abundantly clear that the actual role of the Committee, at least as currently constituted, will be to offer justifications for not developing rigorous, enforceable criteria designed to ‘avoid or minimize’ the ever escalating wildlife impacts from poorly sited and constructed wind power turbines,” said the most recent letter.

The coalition opposed to the results of the advisory committee includes the Industrial Wind Action Group, the Center for Biological Diversity, The Humane Society of the United States, D. Daniel Boone, Maryland Conservation Council, Save Our Allegheny Ridges, Friends of Blackwater Canyon, Protect the Flint Hills, Chautauqua County Citizens for Responsible Wind Power, Green Berkshires, Inc., Juniata Valley Audubon Society, Ripley Hawk Watch, Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, Wildlife Advocacy Project, Union Neighbors United, and Laurel Mountain Preservation Association.

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