Judge rules wind farm a danger to rare bats
WASHINGTON - In a rare green versus green court case, a federal judge in Maryland has halted the expansion of a West Virginia wind farm, saying its massive turbines would kill endangered Indiana bats.
US District Judge Roger Titus ruled that Chicago-based Invenergy can complete 40 windmills it has begun installing on an Appalachian ridge. But he said the firm cannot move forward on the project - slated to have 122 turbines along a 23-mile stretch - without a special US Fish and Wildlife Service permit.
“Like death and taxes, there is a virtual certainty that Indiana bats will be harmed, wounded, or killed imminently by the Beech Ridge Project,’’ Titus wrote. “The development of wind energy can and should be encouraged, but wind turbines must be good neighbors.’’ The lawsuit is the first court challenge to wind power under the Endangered Species Act, but as wind and solar farms rapidly expand nationwide, similar battles are playing out.
David Cowan, 72, a longtime caver who fought to stop the project, said the ruling is a victory for the Indiana bat, a brownish-gray creature that weighs about as much as three pennies.
“I think this is going to make the wind-power people realize that just picking a place that has the right amount of wind isn’t all that needs to be looked at,’’ Cowan said.
The court ruled that if it wants to complete the project, Invenergy must seek a permit that sets out conditions to mitigate possible harm to an endangered species.