July 30, 2012

Wildlife consultants hired to find minimal wildlife impact

Westwood Professional Services was hired as wildlife consultants by National Wind to find no threat to eagles from their proposed wind energy plant in Goodhue County, Minnesota. A presentation by Rob Bouta of Westwood Professional Services, titled “Wildlife Consultants: Narrowing the Gap between Wildlife Agencies and Wind Energy Developers”, clearly shows the fact that their interest is not in reducing — let alone preventing — risks to wildlife but in reducing the developer's risk of losing financing and approval by minimizing the perception of risks to wildlife with the appearance of objective science. Some excerpts:
Goal of Wildlife Consultants
• Establish scientific credibility.
• Achieve an acceptable level of wildlife risk.
• Obtain agency approval or concurrence.

Scientific Credibility
• Consultants demonstrate or earn credibility
• Support conclusions with data
• Address concerns of neighbors
• Wildlife agencies have default credibility
• Viewed as experts by permitting agencies

How Much Does Science Matter?
• Permitting decisions are based on politics rather than science
• Perception is reality
• Null hypothesis of agencies: Presumed risk
• Influence the perception of decision makers

What Is Risk?
USFWS Land-Based Wind Energy Guidelines:
• The likelihood that adverse impacts will occur to individuals or populations of species of concern as a result of wind energy development and operation.
Wind Energy Developers:
• Anything that threatens the likelihood that a wind project can be successfully designed, permitted, financed, and constructed.

Challenges and Obstacles
Affect potential for wind project financing:
• Wind turbine curtailment
• Agency requests viewed as project risks
• Requests for concurrence met with requests for more studies
wind power, wind energy, wind turbines, wind farms, environment, environmentalism, animal rights