Wind Industry Dodges Bird Bullet

John Davis

Cong. Nick RahallThe wind generation industry in America breathed a collective sigh of relief when a U.S. Congressman from a coal-producing state pulled a measure that would have effectively killed wind power generation as an alternative to coal-powered plants.

Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick Rahall, D-West Virginia had been pushing for regulations that would require the U.S. Interior Department to protect birds and bats by regulating the siting and operation of energy wind turbines to ensure the safety of wildlife. According to this AP article in the Jackson Hole (WY) Star Tribune, wind industry officials said those rules would have halted the development of wind farms:

His action unleashed intense lobbying by the wind industry and renewable energy advocates, who argued that such restrictions would stop wind farm development at a time when wind is viewed as the most viable renewable alternative to fossil fuels and nuclear power for producing electricity.

Cong. Edward MarkeyAs his committee began final crafting of the energy package Wednesday, Rahall relented and agreed to support, instead, a less-sweeping measure offered by Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass. It calls on the Interior Department to develop “guidelines” for protection of wildlife from wind turbines, not regulations.

“I think it was a good compromise. It will allow the development of wind and still allow for a process” to protect wildlife, Rahall said after his committee recessed for the day. A final vote on the energy package was expected today.

This “will allow wind power to continue to thrive,” said Markey. Rahall said he expects Markey’s amendment to get final approval, although it must still go through a formal committee vote.

The article goes on to say the turnaround shows how much more clout the wind power industry has now compared to a few years ago. Having some big allies, such as General Electric, now in the game sure doesn’t hurt either.