Wind energy leaders testify to House panel on need for workable rules to develop wind and protect wildlife
Washington, D.C., June 1, 2011 – Leading land-based and offshore wind energy developers testified today to Congress about the need for consistent and long-term federal policies to support the deployment of renewable energy, including federal financial incentives and market demand policies.
The land-based wind energy witnesses also focused on "unworkable" rules recently proposed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) that threaten hundreds of wind farms with years of delays and millions in unnecessary costs. On May 19, 2011, AWEA submitted extensive public comments on the two USFWS policies of concern: the Draft Land-Based Wind Energy Guidelines and the Eagle Conservation Plan Guidance.
"The number one obstacle our industry faces is uncertainty," testified Susan Reilly, president and CEO of RES Americas Inc., of Broomfield, Colo., to the House Natural Resources Committee, led by Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA). "While these rules were no doubt well-intended, all of this uncertainty will make financing projects more difficult, and cause buyers to shy away from signing purchase contracts."
She said that threatens tens of thousands of U.S. jobs, "particularly in the manufacturing sector," and would stifle the growth of clean, renewable energy.
The draft documents from the USFWS propose overly burdensome standards for wind energy projects even though, according to data from the USFWS and analysis by the National Academy of Sciences, among others, wind energy is only a minor contributor to wildlife mortality. With respect to eagles specifically, according to publicly available data, modern wind turbines have caused only a small number of eagle deaths since 1984 – less than 1% of human-caused eagle mortality.
"We fully support responsible development and protection of wildlife, and the industry has a long history of being proactive in this area. But it doesn't seem reasonable to hold wind developers to a standard with respect to eagles that is more stringent than what's required for endangered species, which are by definition more imperiled than an unlisted species," Reilly said.
Reilly was joined by Roby Roberts, Vice President of Communications and Government Affairs for Horizon Wind Energy of Houston, and chairman of the American Wind Energy Association Siting Committee. Roberts focused on industry concerns related to the draft land-based guidelines. He urged a return to the consensus approach recommended to the Secretary of Interior by a Federal Advisory Committee representing state officials, tribes, wildlife experts, staff members of conservation groups such as National Audubon Society, Defenders of Wildlife, Bat Conservation International, and The Nature Conservancy, and the wind industry. The Advisory Committee spent two-and-a-half years developing guidelines for wind farms and wildlife supported by science, but also workable from a business perspective.
"We ask that this Congress and this Committee urge the Department of Interior to return to the principles set forth by the Advisory Committee," Roberts said.
Reilly also asked that the Interior Department's 2009 rulemaking process over eagles be reopened to address administrative problems created by the earlier policy.
Reilly and Roberts said that to install the renewable energy that Americans want and avoid the pollution of other forms of energy, wind energy must face no surprises during and after the permitting process, and be able to obtain permits for the 20-to-30-year life of a project – not just five years, as the eagle permitting rule would have it. Their full testimony may be found at www.awea.org and linked below.
The offshore wind industry witnesses, James Gordon, President of Cape Wind Associates, LLC and Jim Lanard, President of the Offshore Wind Development Coalition, also testified on the need for stable and longer-term federal policy support, including an extension of the investment tax credit and restoring funding and extending the Department of Energy's loan guarantee program.
The land-based and offshore wind energy witnesses also discussed ways to improve the siting of renewable energy projects on public lands and in federal waters.
But, as Roberts noted, "Without long-term federal policies on the tax and demand side, as well as making the Service policies more workable, establishing policies specifically to make developing projects on public lands more attractive will be of only marginal benefit, at best."
To read Susan Reilly's testimony, please click here.
To read Roby Roberts' testimony, please click here.
 AWEA comments available here: http://www.awea.org/issues/siting/upload/AWEA-Comments-on-USFWS-Wind-Energy-Guidelines_May-19-2011.pdf
 AWEA comments available here: http://www.awea.org/issues/siting/upload/AWEA-Comments-on-USFWS-Eagle-Guidance-May-19-2011.pdf
AWEA is the national trade association of America's wind industry, with 1,200 member companies, including global leaders in wind power and energy development, wind turbine manufacturing, component and service suppliers, and the world's largest wind power trade show, the WINDPOWER Conference & Exhibition, which takes place next in Chicago, May 5-8, 2013. AWEA is the voice of wind energy in the U.S., promoting renewable energy to power a cleaner, stronger America. Look up information on wind energy at the AWEA website. Find insight on industry issues at AWEA's blog Into the Wind. Join AWEA on Facebook. Follow AWEA on Twitter.