Trial Challenging Wind Energy Impacts on Endangered Bat Set to Begin in Federal Court

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Washington, D.C. -- Today a groundbreaking trial began in Federal District Court in Greenbelt, MD (6500 Cherrywood Lane, Greenbelt, MD  20770) pitting a massive wind energy development in West Virginia against the critically endangered Indiana bat. Plaintiffs Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), Mountain Communities for Responsible Energy, and Mr. Dave Cowan filed a lawsuit against Beech Ridge Energy, in June 2009 over its construction of an extensive, 124-turbine wind farm on mountain ridgelines in Greenbrier County, West Virginia. Plaintiffs allege that the wind energy development will kill endangered Indiana bats in violation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and are seeking a court order enjoining the projects unless Beech Ridge seeks an incidental take permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).

"This is not a lawsuit condemning wind energy per se but it is a challenge to a specific project that will adversely impact an endangered bat in violation of federal law," says D.J. Schubert, a wildlife biologist with the Animal Welfare Institute. "The plaintiffs in this case all support wind energy as an alternative to coal or other more destructive and polluting forms of energy but believe that all energy projects must be responsibly developed with all impacts considered and not, as is the case here, haphazardly concocted without concern for protected species or the Endangered Species Act," adds Schubert.

The trial, expected to last at least three days, is set to begin at 9:00 AM in the courtroom of Federal District Court Judge Roger W. Titus. Plaintiffs will be represented by attorneys from the law firm of Meyer, Glitzenstein, & Crystal based in Washington, DC.  During the trial, several of the country’s and world’s leading bat experts, including Drs. Tom Kunz, Michael Gannon, and Lynn Robbins will provide testimony supporting plaintiffs’ allegations that this facility - which Defendants themselves admit will kill at least 130,000 bats - will likely kill the endangered Indiana bat, that Indiana bat use the project ridgelines, and that defendants’ consultants did not conduct adequate bat surveys despite repeated requests from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

"This lawsuit is of great historical significance since it is the first federal challenge to a wind energy development under the Endangered Species Act," reports John Stroud of MCRE. "The ESA has protected myriad species and their habitats from harm over the decades and, in this case, its protections must extend to the critically endangered Indiana bat which will be killed if this project is allowed to continue without substantial modification."

The ITP process is a tool utilized by the USFWS to evaluate projects that may adversely impact protected species to determine if they can be permitted to continue and/or to identify modifications necessary to mitigate impacts to the species.

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Media Contacts:
D.J. Schubert, AWI, (609) 601-2875
John Stroud. (304) 645-7169

The Animal Welfare Institute is a national animal protection organization headquartered in Washington, DC. It is dedicated to alleviating suffering inflicted on animals by humans.  Mountain Communities for Responsible Energy is headquartered in Williamsburg, VA and is dedicated to identifying and exposing the adverse impacts of wind energy along Appalachian ridgelines through advocacy and education. Dave Cowan is a local caver and wildlife enthusiast.