The Newspaper of the San Francisco Bay Chapter
March - April 2006
Too many raptors must die
Is the answer blowing in Alameda County's wind turbines?
On Sep. 22 the Alameda County Board of Supervisors renewed 29 permits covering some 3,600 windmills at the Altamont Pass Wind Resources Area, allowing the wind companies to continue operating the turbines - and to continue killing thousands of birds each year.
The Supervisors voted 4 - 1 (Gail Steele opposed) to approve 13-year permits allowing the windmills to continue operating. In early 2004 Golden Gate Audubon had joined with the Center for Biological Diversity and Californians for Renewable Energy to appeal the permits, asking the county to take strong steps to reduce the illegal bird kill and to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act by conducting an Environmental Impact Report (EIR).
Thanks to pressure from those appellants, Sierra Club members, and the environmental and scientific community, the Supervisors did add additional conditions to the permits to reduce bird kill, including requirements to shut down turbines, some permanently and some during winter migration season. The Supervisors voted to wait three years before preparing the required EIR.
The new conditions are a limited improvement over the original permits, which for two decades required absolutely no reduction in bird kill and allowed broadcast poisoning of a wide variety of animals without environmental review. The newly approved permit conditions, however, do not go far enough to reduce the illegal bird kill at Altamont. As many as 4,700 birds are killed annually by the windmills, including up to 116 state- and federally protected golden eagles and hundreds of other protected raptors.
The permits do not include important measures requested by Attorney General Bill Lockyer, state and federal regulatory agencies, bird experts, scientific consultants for the California Energy Commission, and the appellants. Recent studies funded by the California Energy Commission indicate that the wind industry could reduce bird kills by at least 50% without threatening the economic viability of the wind industry.
As a result Golden Gate Audubon and Californians for Renewable Energy have each filed a lawsuit against Alameda County under the California Environmental Quality Act. The Center for Biological Diversity has filed a lawsuit against the turbine operators.
Write the Alameda County Board of Supervisors at:
Clerk of the Board
(ask the Clerk to distribute your letters to all the supervisors), or contact individual supervisors at:
Scott Haggerty (District 1)
Gail Steele (District 2)
Alice Lai-Bitker (District 3)
Nate Miley (District 4)
Keith Carson (District 5)
Tell Lai-Bitker, Carson, Haggerty, and Miley that you are disappointed in their vote on the Altamont. Thank Supervisor Steele for her support.
The County Planning Department is currently selecting the consultants who will monitor avian mortality and the members of the Scientific Review Committee that will oversee the monitoring process and implementation of permit conditions. Tell the Supervisors you expect the county to select the most qualified, knowledgeable, and unbiased individuals for these positions.
We will need your support to assure that the consultants and the Scientific Review Committee are scientifically sound and unbiased in their oversight. You can help by including your name on the Wildlife Committee Altamont Alert list. To be added to the list contact Terry Preston at mtmpreston -at- comcast.net or call (510) 582-4179.
© 2006 San Francisco Sierra Club Yodeler
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