Daily Archives: March 18, 2015

Group calls for changes in collection of data at wind developments

 

The American Bird Conservancy (ABC) has called on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to institute a new system of pre-construction risk assessment and bird and bat mortality data collection in connection with hundreds of thousands of bird (and bat) deaths being caused by wind turbines and the likelihood that that number could substantially exceed one million deaths when the industry reaches its full build out capacity by 2030 or before.

The ABC proposal was made in a letter to Department of Interior and FWS pursuant to their request for comments on information collection in connection with their land-based wind energy guidelines. It follows the entering of a guilty plea on January 6 from PacifiCorp that will require the company to pay $2.5 million in fines, restitution and community service for violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act by killing 38 Golden Eagles and 336 other birds at two Wyoming wind farms.

ABC is asking FWS to institute a pre-construction risk assessment and bird mortality data collection that are based on:

  • studies conducted by independent, qualified expertsselected by the FWS or a trusted consulting company hired by FWS;
  • costs being borne by wind energy companies;
  • all reports sent directly to the FWS, and not through the wind energy company, which would then have no opportunity to edit or alter the reports to their advantage;
  • reports being made available to the public to add an additional layer of scrutiny; and
  • mandatory requirement to conduct independent Environmental Assessments (EA) and obtain incidental take permits under the Endangered Species Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act when protected species are present.

The ABC letter commended the FWS for formally recognizing, in their comment solicitation, that there may be serious problems with their current voluntary system of siting and operational guidelines for the wind industry, which is based largely on self-reporting. The solicitation said that: “We are currently in the process of evaluating the efficacy and use of the Guidelines and the Service is considering regulatory options. Based on feedback from the wind energy industry and from Service staff, the Guidelines are often successful in improving communication and lead to development of wind projects that are safer for wildlife, but in other cases are not successful in preventing wind energy facilities from being constructed in areas of high risk to wildlife.”

ABC objected to the statement “often successful,” asserting that there are no data to support such a statement. ABC is calling on FWS to “trust but verify” in regard to bird mortality data collection and monitoring, citing a wide range of problems with the current system, including:

♦ industry-paid consultants that downplay the potential impact of wind energy facilities on federally-protected birds and bats during the Environmental Assessment development process;

♦ attempts by the wind industry to site wind energy in highly sensitive areas for birds (e.g., Mill Creek in Missouri, Camp Perry in Ohio, Apple Blossom in Michigan, etc.);

♦ industry-paid consultants who collect data on post-construction fatalities and report unverified and potentially incorrect data to regulators;

♦ lack of fatality reporting by existing wind energy facilities; and

♦ efforts to hide bird and bat fatality data from the public.

The ABC letter charges that “…wind energy companies should not be collecting their own fatality data, as it is a direct conflict of interest. Industry does not share mortality data with the public and FWS contends that the data are owned by the companies. ABC contends they only ‘own’ the data because of the system that FWS has set up, which is based entirely on self-reporting.”

ABC had additional concerns with current federal plans to have the American Wind and Wildlife Institute (AWWI) retain bird and bat mortality data. Under that plan, AWWI would sign a confidentiality agreement with wind energy companies and would not be subject to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. “This seems like a less-than-veiled attempt to continue to keep the public and concerned NGOs in the dark,” said Dr. Michael Hutchins, National Coordinator of ABC’s Bird Smart Wind Energy Campaign and author of the letter.

Westar Energy to host guided youth turkey hunts

 

Green Team volunteers from Westar Energy invite youth age 12-17 to participate in their annual spring turkey hunt, April 1-14, 2015, at Jeffrey Energy Center (seven miles north of St. Marys). Hunts will take place primarily in the mornings and on weekends, but weekdays and afternoons are possible based on volunteer guide availability. Registration will be open through Friday, March 20, or until all slots are filled. Applications will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis with preference for inexperienced mentors. Contact Barb Cornelius at (785) 575-8125 to apply.

Youth must be accompanied by an adult, preferably one who does not have turkey hunting experience. These trips will take place in enclosed blinds around small crop fields scattered through the plant’s property, where turkeys are abundant.

No special clothing, calls or decoys are needed; however hunters must bring a shotgun. Hunters 15 years and younger will need to purchase a youth spring turkey permit. Hunters 16 years and older must have a hunting license or apprentice hunting license, as well as a Unit 3 Turkey Permit.

To purchase a license or permit online, visit www.ksoutdoors.com /License-Permits.

The Westar Energy Green Team is made up of employees and retiree volunteers who take on environmental projects across Kansas. The group completes between 50 and 70 projects per year on weekends and evenings. The Green Team also collaborates with conservation groups, agencies and schools in enhancing and fostering an understanding of the Kansas environment.

Chickadee Checkoff small grants proposals due April 15

 

The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism is accepting proposals for the Chickadee Checkoff Small Grants Program through April 15, 2015. Grant recipients carry out projects focused on wildlife diversity and native nongame wildlife species, while addressing the issues and strategies within the Kansas Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Plan, “A Future for Kansas Wildlife.”

The Chickadee Checkoff Program funds a variety of educational, research-based, and habitat enhancement projects, as well as the monitoring of nongame wildlife and habitats. The diverse projects completed as a result of this program have led to numerous publications in scientific journals, educational products, and new information on native nongame wildlife species and their habitats.

Completed proposals must be received at the KDWPT Pratt Operations Office by April 15. To learn about eligibility requirements and to view a list of priority projects for 2015, download the grant guidance document by visiting www.ksoutdoors.com and clicking “Services / Wildlife Diversity / Chickadee Checkoff.”

Report connects polluting industries with their political spending

 

By Kimberly Williams

Clean Water Network

 

I thought you might be interested in some of the information in Polluting Politics, Environment America’s report on the massive amounts of money that polluters spend to influence decision makers and ensure they can keep damaging our waterways.

http://www.environmentamerica.org/sites/environment/files/reports/Polluting%20Politics%20AME%202.pdf

It’s no secret that the same polluting industries that are fouling our waterways also contribute to political campaigns and lobby lawmakers. But just how much money are the biggest polluters spending?

Last summer, Environment America Research and Policy Center’s Wasting Our Waterways report used data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) to show just how much toxic pollution entered our waterways and watersheds across the country in 2012, breaking the data down by polluter and by parent company. This report takes that data and matches it up with campaign contributions and lobbying reports to paint the picture of what massive resources the nation’s biggest polluters are able to put into stopping progress for our waterways.

Highlights from the report:

  • For each state, the report names a company that is dumping massive amounts of toxics into local waterway and also polluting our politics with political spending. Some examples include:
    • The Cargill Meat Solutions Corporation plant in Ottumwa, IA dumped 2,889,989 lbs. of toxic pollution into the Lower Des Moines River watershed in 2012. The following year, Cargill spent more than $1.4 million lobbying Congress.
    • In Rosemount, MN, the Flint Hills Resources’ Pine Bend Refinery dumped 739,982 lbs. of toxic chemicals into the watershed of the Rush and Vermillion Rivers. Flint Hills Resources is a wholly owned subsidiary of Koch Industries, the Koch brothers’ megacompany, which spent $10.4 million on lobbying in 2013 and a whopping $7,703,335 in campaign contributions in the 2014 election.
  • The ten parent companies with the most industrial dumping in 2012 spent nearly $30 million on lobbying in the following year and contributed more than $9.4 million to candidates for federal office in the 2014 election cycle. Between them, these polluters reported dumping more than 95 million pounds of toxic chemicals into waterways across the country.
  • In Pennsylvania, the state’s biggest polluter – US Steel’s plant in Clairton – made its biggest campaign contribution to Rep. Bill Shuster. Rep. Shuster, the chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, held a field hearing in April of this year to allow industry to bash the clean water rule in Altoona, PA. No Obama administration officials or members of the public were allowed to testify.
  • The American Farm Bureau Federation – the single most vocal opponent of the clean water rule – spent more than $2 million on lobbying in the first three quarters of 2014 alone. The report also exposes the American Farm Bureau for what it really is, detailing its role as a bottom-down advocate for the biggest factory farms, not family farmers.

Six Hunter Education Instructors awarded for excellence

 

Kansas has certified 535,901 students in Hunter Education since the program’s inception 42 years ago and has done so without paying one person to teach a class. The program, which is carried out by more than 1,200 volunteer instructors across the state, is unique in that it is fueled by passion, not payment. Volunteer instructors, some of whom have devoted the better portion of their lives to share their love of the outdoors with youth, are what make the program possible. It’s because of this unfaltering dedication from volunteers that the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism annually recognizes six special instructors for their contributions.

Dennis Vincent, a veteran instructor of 25 years, has been named the “2014 Instructor of the Year” and for those that know him, that comes as no surprise.

“Dennis is a down-to-earth spokesman for hunting and shooting,” said Kansas Hunter Education coordinator, Kent Barrett. “He is able to communicate with everyone from the politician in the statehouse, to the hunting veteran with 30 years of field experience, to the terrified mother watching her 12-year-old son shoot a shotgun for the first time.”

Vincent will receive a certificate and a 2015 CZ Sharp-Tail 20 gauge side-by-side shotgun as tokens of appreciation for his dedication.

Other instructors recognized for their exemplary involvement, performance, and continued dedication to the program include:

-Marshall Rhea, Region 1

-Larry Noell, Region 2

-William Kreie, Region 3

-Dennis DeLay, Region 4

-Ben Rockers, Region 5

Each regional winner will also receive a certificate of appreciation and a TriStar Viper G2 Synthetic Semi-Automatic 20 gauge shotgun.

For more information on the Hunter Education program and its volunteer instructors, contact program coordinator, Kent Barrett, at [email protected].

To find a Hunter Education class near you, visit www.ksoutdoors.com and click “Services / Education / Hunter.”