Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Federal Agencies Sued Over Failure to Disclose Correspondence with Wind Industry

On behalf of the American Bird Conservancy (ABC), we sued the Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Indian Affairs for failure to comply with mandatory deadlines under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

ABC filed six requests under FOIA – all of them more than eight months ago. ABC’s FOIA requests asked for the Fish and Wildlife Service’s correspondence with wind developers regarding birds and bats, as well as related information about wildlife impacts, such as studies showing which bird and bat species were in the area and how many had been killed by the facilities. The Fish and Wildlife Service subsequently referred one request to the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Under FOIA’s strict deadlines, the agencies were required to fulfill the requests or claim exemptions within 20 working days, and hence ABC has a right to seek judicial intervention.  The case was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

ABC’s FOIA requests were in regard to proposed and existing wind energy developments in Arizona, California, Florida, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Texas. Birds that could potentially be harmed include Bald and Golden Eagles, as well as birds that have been federally designated as threatened and endangered, such as Whooping Cranes, Northern Aplomado Falcons, Least Terns, Piping Plovers, Marbled Murrelets, Snail Kites, Wood Storks, and Northern Crested Caracaras.

Monday, June 25, 2012

In Response to Wild Horse Groups’ Legal Arguments, BLM Withdraws Pancake Complex Roundup Decision

Several weeks after a federal judge ruled that the Bureau of Land Management (“BLM”) should have considered declarations from four leading wild horse scientists who criticized the agency’s radical approach to wild horse management, which involves castrating male horses and returning them to the range with unknown, and likely severe, impacts to individual horses, their herds, and the public’s ability to view these horses in their natural “wild” state, BLM has filed a motion for voluntary remand asking for an opportunity to reconsider its decision.  Once the request is approved by the court, BLM’s November 2011 roundup decision will be withdrawn, and no management actions can be taken to round up wild horses in the Pancake Complex or to castrate male horses that live there unless and until BLM issues a new decision that fully complies with the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Company Pulls The Plug On Industrial Wind Farm In Critical Indiana Bat Habitat

After years of controversy, energy company Gamesa has withdrawn its plans to build an industral wind power facility near Shaffer Mountain, Pennsylvania.  The project would have been placed in an important migratory corridor for Golden eagles and in the midst of a maternity colony of critically endangered Indiana bats.  This would have been the first time that a wind project – which according to leading experts would have killed and harmed Indiana bats due to turbine collisions and a pressurizing condition called barotrauma – would be sited in such a sensitive location for an endagered species.  On behalf of several conservation organizations and community members, we submitted multiple notice letters and comments to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers detailing various violations of the Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act, and National Environmental Policy Act, which inevitably influenced the company’s decision to withdraw from this project in lieu of more sustainable project locations elsewhere that will better allow for clean, renewable energy without sacrificing our nation’s important natural resources.