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Cape Wind Project: A Tale of Crony Environmentalism (Part 2) Did Mass Audubon Sell its Soul to the Wind Industry?

Dead bird at Navarre Windfarm, Spain

By Christine Morabito – June 2015

As an environmentalist and bird lover, it gives me no pleasure to criticize the largest conservation organization in New England; an organization of which I am a member. Personal conflict aside, it seems apparent that Massachusetts Audubon Society’s support for a massive industrial project threatens thousands of birds a year.

As discussed in Part 1 of this series, wind farms are prolific killers of birds and bats. It is estimated that by 2050, with the expected increase in wind development, the industry will be responsible for killing at least 5 million birds a year and untold millions of bats.

The decade-long relationship between Massachusetts Audubon Society (MAS) and the Cape Wind Project is laden with inconsistencies. In February of 2005, MAS had serious concerns about the proposed 130-turbine offshore wind project’s environmental impact on Nantucket Sound, and responded in a lengthy testimony to federal regulators. Most significant was their estimation that the turbines, in the path of a major migration route, would kill between 2,300 and 6,600 birds a year.

Curiously, the above estimate was later denied by Audubon’s Taber Allison, former Vice President of Conservation Science and Ecological Management, in a letter to the editor of South Coast Today, (“Letter writer gets bird facts wrong,” August 3, 2006). Allison has since left MAS, to become Director of Research and Evaluation for American Wind Wildlife Institute, working in partnership with the wind industry.

It was Mass Audubon’s original opinion that key data were missing from the Draft Environmental Impact Study (DEIS), and required supplemental research before offering their support, stating, “The collision risk analysis is seriously deficient and should be redone.” They stressed the need to assess impacts on endangered roseate terns, threatened piping plovers, migrating songbirds, federally endangered sea turtles, protected marine mammals and federally regulated fish populations.

However, by March 2006, MAS, overlooking enormous data gaps, had a monumental change of heart, as Jack Clarke, Director of Public Policy and Government Relations, told the Boston Globe, “Our preliminary conclusion is that the project would not pose a threat to avian species.” Admittedly, there would be bird deaths, but MAS would not comment on how many they considered acceptable.

In a final statement, August 2013, Audubon claimed to have conducted intensive studies, including a visit to Denmark’s offshore wind farms (Nysted and Horns Rev) during the 2005 spring bird migration. However, MAS previously conceded “There are few offshore wind farms worldwide, and none of comparable size, from which to gauge the potential impacts of this project on birds and other wildlife.” Audubon announced, “To date, no collision mortality has been reported at the Danish offshore wind farms, although measuring mortality in the offshore environment is difficult.”

Difficult indeed – if not impossible – a fact confirmed by Vernon Lang, assistant supervisor of United States Fish and Wildlife Service’s New England Field Office, who called for more impact studies of Cape Wind. Promptly thereafter, he was reassigned.

Offshore bird mortality cannot be studied the same way we study land-based wind sites – by searching the ground for carcasses. The sea is an extremely harsh environment. Birds and bats killed by turbines are likely to become fish food, sink or drift away with the currents.

dolphinNational Wind Watch commented on Denmark’s wind farms in their piece, “Wind power plan threat to wildlife.” Plagued by problems since the beginning, Horns Rev’s offshore wind turbine transformers “proved to be incapable of tolerating the harsh weather and salt water. In May, 2004, 80 defective wind turbines had to be shipped elsewhere for repairs.” Marine biologists in costal England became concerned in June 2005, when hundreds of seals were disturbed by wind turbines, affecting their breeding. “Many pups were born dead or abandoned by frightened mums.”

Little is spoken of Cape Wind’s oil spill risk. A 10-story transformer substation is projected to hold 40,000 gallons of oil. According to the developer’s own studies, in the case of a spill, there is a 90 percent chance that oil will reach the shoreline of the Cape and Islands in less than 5 hours. The turbines themselves each contain 190 gallons of oil. Land turbines have been known to leak oil and contaminate groundwater. That’s not green, on land or at sea.

Another concern is industrial noise and its affect on marine creatures, many of whom feed, breed and navigate by sound. The Army Corp of Engineers anticipates Cape Wind construction related noise decibel levels of 180 at 1,220 meters (a jet engine is 140 decibels). The Oceanic Preservation Society reports, “Whales, dolphins and other marine mammals that have been caught in the wake of sonar have died of cerebral hemorrhaging or intentionally beached themselves in a desperate attempt to avoid the ear-splitting resonance.”

I find it absurd that the environmental impact studies examined by federal and state agencies were done using General Electric 3.6 MW wind turbines which were discontinued by GE for failure to withstand the harsh marine environment. Questions were raised about advancing the permitting process using failing technology, but those concerns were ignored. A possible replacement turbine was not announced until just before the project was approved, which begs the question: Exactly what technology were the entities reviewing?

Mass Audubon stressed that Cape Wind be subject to careful and specific permit conditions. So, why did they embrace a project that got special exemptions from procedures that applied to every other offshore wind project? Why were permits waived and sweetheart deals made to benefit a private developer?

It is beyond comprehension that a massive offshore industrial project of such magnitude; 130 wind turbines, 417 feet tall, in 15-foot waves, with spinning blades as wide as football fields, covering 24 square miles, in often foggy, noisy conditions, would be safe for any biologically sensitive location. Nor can I imagine a parallel universe where we would accept this level of environmental risk, were it posed by an oil company. Greenpeace / sea turtle

Mass Audubon’s 180 degree turn coincided with a “Challenge” to the Cape Wind developer as a condition of their support. They challenged the corporation to finance the monitoring of future environmental impacts (industry code for carcass counting), along with a comprehensive mitigation package (attempts to reduce harm). There is little doubt that Mass Audubon, as one of the area’s largest conservation groups, would be the recipient of the aforementioned contract, with an estimated value of $8 million. Money can be seductive, especially to a non-profit organization.

After MAS presented their challenge, there was distinct shift from bird advocacy to wind advocacy. Much like their fellow environmental groups, Sierra Club (at least certain chapters) and Greenpeace, they traded environmental activism for political activism.

Case in point: Cape Wind poses a serious threat to marine mammals, yet Greenpeace is one of their biggest cheerleaders. “We can dance with corporations or we can dance on them,” said Kate Smolski, a former spokeswoman for Greenpeace USA. This is why Patrick Moore, a Greenpeace founder, refers to their recent tactics as “blackmail in the boardroom.” Moore jumped ship when the group attempted to ban chlorine – an important element in the periodic table.

Wildlife Biologist, Jim Wiegand believes we are seeing “the new face of Audubon” which operates more like a corporation. This shift began, he says, when National Audubon Society failed to adequately protect the endangered California condor from extinction by turbine. While some Audubon chapters still advocate for birds, their overall record is spotty.

Evidence suggests that wildlife collision data is biased in favor of the wind industry. Mortality disclosure at wind farms is voluntary, relying on powerful corporations to self-report. This is a world-wide problem, where consultants, hired by wind developers, have a vested interest in pleasing their employers, hence, hiding the bodies. One trick of the trade includes counting only carcasses found in designated areas, while ignoring the rest.

I applaud efforts by conservation organizations to impose stricter regulations on the wind industry. Since 2010, the American Bird Conservancy (ABC) has been advocating for mandatory permitting guidelines – like those required by oil and gas companies – to reduce the deadly impact of their technology.

spoke with Michael Hutchins, Ph.D., Director of Bird Smart Wind Energy Campaign at ABC, who said, “Some environmental groups have fully embraced wind, without asking the important questions. They see birds and bats as collateral damage,” in the quest for renewable energy. The Conservancy is pro-wind, but advocates for careful placement (siting) of the structures, avoiding sensitive wildlife areas (such as Nantucket Sound). “Once the turbines are up, they’re not coming down.” as in California’s Altamont Pass, where thousands of birds and bats are mutilated yearly.

Wind turbines and swanMany environmental groups have romanticized wind energy and embraced the “green is green” myth. Some green enthusiasts are so ideologically and/or financially invested, that they refuse to admit they are wrong. Not admitting you are wrong in a relationship can doom it to failure. Not admitting you are wrong about wind power can be deadly.

My comments are not meant as an indictment of the many, dedicated Mass Audubon employees and volunteers I have met and worked alongside. As in many industries, management is often tragically out of step with the rank and file. It is my sincere belief that the top brass at Mass Audubon have betrayed not only the wildlife they are entrusted to protect, but the membership they represent.

The above column is Part 2 of a series. Read Part 1 – More next month!

Related Articles:

Birds win in fight over wind farm near northwest Missouri wildlife refuge

Save Our Sound: Update on Cape Wind Fight (video)

An Ill Wind Off Cape Cod

They’re Not Green Episode 6 (video)

They’re Not Green Episode 5 (video)

Sound exposure in harbour seals during the installation of an offshore wind farm: predictions of auditory damage

Major Transformer Failure at Nysted, Denmark

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christine Morabito

Christine Morabito

Christine Morabito is a psychiatric nurse, a resident of Haverhill, president of Protect Our Vote New England and the former president of the Greater Boston Tea Party. You can email Christine christine.morabito@hotmail.com

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16 Responses to Cape Wind Project: A Tale of Crony Environmentalism (Part 2) Did Mass Audubon Sell its Soul to the Wind Industry?

  1. Pingback: Cape Wind Project: A Tale of Crony Environmentalism (Part 1) | The Valley Patriot

  2. Jim Wiegand Reply

    June 15, 2015 at 11:20 AM

    Wind energy is not a fix for anything but it is a green-washing nightmare that society must wake up from.

    For those wanting to see how badly wind energy research is rigged? Watch the YouTube Video “Cheeseburgers and the wind industry.”

  3. Jim Wiegand Reply

    June 15, 2015 at 11:34 AM

    The USFWS in reference to Communication towers………… “The taller the tower, the more likely it will kill birds”. But with wind turbines that have far more dangerous 200 mph spinning blade tips, this same fact is being dismissed by the wind industry and USFWS.

    And for those that think communication towers are more dangerous I will present another fact. Very few raptors (less than 1/10 of a percent of carcasses found) have ever been killed in the 75 year history of studying avian mortality around communication towers. Also in my research I have yet to come across a single eagle being reported killed by a communication tower.

    Since 1997 approximately 31,000 eagle carcasses have been shipped to the Denver Eagle Repository of which thousands have come from around wind farms. The cause of death and exact locations where these 31,000 eagles were found has never been disclosed by the Interior Department, even though once upon a time the USFWS did disclose that wind farms were a primary sources of eagle carcasses sent to the Denver Eagle Repository.

    Our Interior Department along with the FWS have been protecting this industry for decades by endorsing the wind industry’s rigged research and providing this industry with voluntary regulations. As a result most of the wind industry’s slaughter to protected species is being concealed behind contrived research. The real numbers of birds killed by turbines are in the millions annually.

    If that isn’t enough, both wind industry and USFWS personnel are conveniently bound by gag orders with severe penalties so dead eagle and endangered species information remains hidden from the public. Because of this any discussions with FWS representatives and people connected to the wind industry are meaningless because they will only reveal “approved” information.

    For college students here is a tip, the last honest turbine mortality study. It was conducted 30 years ago in 1985 when it was estimated that 6800 birds were being killed annually by about 200 MW of installed wind turbines. I would provide a link but this study was stripped off the internet years ago. …………..”McCrary, M.D., R.L. McKernan, and R.W. Schreiber. 1986. San Gorgonio wind resource area: impacts of commercial wind turbine generators on birds, 1985 data report. Prepared for Southern California Edison Company. 33 pp”.

  4. Christine Morabito Reply

    June 15, 2015 at 3:51 PM

    Thanks for the additional information, Jim!

    • Jim Wiegand Reply

      June 16, 2015 at 11:57 AM

      Christine you did a very fine job with this article. Educating the public and requiring accountability is the only way to fix this terrible problem.

      Ironically at about the same time I was dealing with you I also interviewed with a reporter from the Bay Area doing a story on the Altamont Pass wind turbines.

      I was told by Jeremy Thomas “I’d really like to get to the bottom of this”.

      It was not true and the AP story put out across the country was nothing more than a complete diversion from the truth designed to steer people away from my research. I specifically asked Jeremy Thomas to let me respond to the bogus statements he would hear from the industry representatives because their statements (bound by gag orders) would not be credible.

      He did not and the quotes used were from unqualified people or people that can not reveal the truth because of gag orders.

      Altamont is a complete mess and the research being conducted has been a total fraud on the public. One of the things I stressed over and over to Jeremy was that there has never been one scientifically sound or credible mortality study ever conducted at Altamont. From the interview I had a feeling this article was going to end up one-sided so I had a video published May 27th on YouTube. It is called “Cheeseburgers and the wind industry.”
      The video shows very clearly how quickly bodies from around wind turbines can disappear. By seeing this viewers would understand the fraud and absurdity of the 30-50 day search intervals used at Altamont.
      The once great Audubon is right in the middle of this corrupt mess.

      Just imagine the untold thousand of carcasses that would be found with daily searches and NO wind personnel interference. I told Jeremy that because of the lengthy search intervals and other industry tricks being used, that the Altamont Wind resource area was probably killing over 50,000 birds and bats a year.

      The Smallwood studies published in 2004 determined that the small old turbines at Altamont were killing thousands of eagles, hawks, owls and other birds each year. From 1998-2003 the Altamont studies, with ridiculous search intervals, produced 1189 bird carcasses and 90% of these carcasses were determined not to be wind farm related. In other words about 120 of the carcasses found by researchers were dismissed from the turbine mortality data.

      In the later 2005-2010 study used to assess the reduction in raptor mortality by 50% for the Audubon settlement and repowering agreement, 6133 carcasses (over 5 times) were found during similar searches and more than 1500 (over 10 times more) carcasses were dismissed from the data. This total also includes 21 additional dismissed eagles picked up the WRRS.

      Audubon approved these later studies even though more carcasses were dismissed than all the combined carcasses found during the earlier Altamont Smallwood studies.

      Getting the truth out about Altamont and the wind industry’s bogus research is important because as the public is being fed misinformation with stories like this one, the industry is very hard at work rigging new laws in D.C. They are crafting laws that absolve them for their past, present and future wind turbine slaughter. A slaughter that will drive many species to extinction, the species type and numbers killed will not matter.

      One of these hatched plots is H.R.493 CLEAN Energy Producers Act of 2015.

  5. kj Bullock Reply

    June 23, 2015 at 3:46 PM

    Here in Oklahoma we are losing the habitat of the Lesser Prairie Chicken (LPC) to wind mills farms. They will not nest in areas with tall structures. In the natural habitat, tall structures(i.e. trees) are associated with hawk roosts and hawks are the natural predator of the prairie chickens. The LPC needs several acres to court and raise young. Both existing and future wind mill farms overlay the LPC natural habitat. To make matters even worse, Oklahoma is also losing land for transmission lines crisscrossing our state. The wind mill farms in northern Oklahoma are contracted to sell the generated electricity out-of-state. Some of the lines will go from Oklahoma to Nashville, TN. One of my friends lost several acres to public domain law since she refused the transmission line access to her property.

    In addition there have been no studies to determine the effect of the vibrations generated by the windmills to burrowing prairie animals. These organisms are necessary for the health of the grasslands, yet no one understands how this biome will be affected.

    Wind mills have been the scourage of our state, though no state legislators have even acknowledged any difficulties and the populace has been swayed by the promise of green energy.

    • Jim Wiegand Reply

      June 23, 2015 at 4:34 PM

      Deliberately avoiding meaningful wind industry studies has been one of their ploys for decades. Another one is for the USFWS and the sell out conservation groups to say as little as possible negative about these terrible turbines. Here is an explanation of the stupidity behind the thinking on the part of groups like the Sierra Club and Audubon .

                                                                                                                     Their mindset is that they are protecting more birds in the future from climate change while they turn a blind eye to the avian genocide taking place right under their feet.  I am sure that without the wind energy money they are receiving they would be singing a completely different tune.                                                                                                                            Mitigation with gag orders is keeping certain conservation groups and people quiet about turbine impacts. I have paperwork for an approved repowering wind project at Altamont with mitigation that actually states that the more eagles that die from turbines, the more that will be donated to the conservation fund.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Part of the wind money given out to groups is given out in the form of mitigation in conjunction with Habitat Conservation Plans (HCP).

       

      Funny thing is that these eagles and other protected species are not theirs to sell or profit from.

                                                                                                                                  Most intelligent people should be able to understand that turbines can do nothing about climate change because there are so many reasons for changing micro climates across the globe. This includes the deforestation from transmission lines and clear-cutting taking place from sprawling wind energy developments. But even if turbines could impact climate and all the destroyed forest ecosystems of the world were restored, turbines would still have to be a primary source of energy for society.

      But this can not happen because so many turbines would have to be built that there is not enough room, enough good wind, or enough time to build the tens of millions of turbines needed.  But this would still only cover the US. The green washing mindset of these conservation groups is insane, incredibly ignorant or corrupt. Take your pick.

  6. Christine Morabito

    Christine Morabito Reply

    June 24, 2015 at 4:59 AM

    Jk Bullock, thank you for your comments. We feel your frustration. Please don’t be afraid to speak out. Maybe write a letter to the editor of you paper to help inform others. We just started a Facebook page to share stories. Please join us!Environmentalists Against Wind Turbines: https://www.facebook.com/groups/835899539823505/

  7. Pingback: Cape Wind Project: A Tale of Crony Environmentalism: (Part 3) Kennedys and Indians | The Valley Patriot

  8. ladyayrmid Reply

    July 13, 2015 at 11:00 AM

    Great Article Christine! It is nice to hear someone question this type of energy, which in theory sounds great but in reality does as much harm as good, if not more. The impact on wildlife is devastating. It is a difficult message to get across to the people who are rabid about climate change.

    • Jim Wiegand Reply

      July 13, 2015 at 11:17 AM

      It has been my plan from the beginning to get the truth out about the wind turbine genocide taking place to protected species across the world. The public must also understand that that besides rigging their mortality impacts, this industry rigs nearly everything else including the reported energy produced from their turbines.

      Energy flowing into wind projects is not accounted for so who really knows how much energy is consumed by wind projects and how much of the reported energy flowing out is just recycled energy off the grid. This is the crap they are pulling and things like Production Tax Credits just encourage them. Once the truth gets out, the public will realize that they need these disgusting “turbines to nowhere” about as much as a car that only gets 1 MPG.

    • Christine Morabito

      Christine Morabito Reply

      July 13, 2015 at 12:01 PM

      Thank you ladyayrmid! We must continue to fight this. Once the monstrosities are up, they’re not coming down.

  9. Nyan Reply

    July 19, 2015 at 10:01 AM

    Oil kills more birds than wind, even nuclear kills more birds than wind mainly due to the thick mist from cooling towers sometimes suffocating flocks, and the same could be expected of geothermal if it were as mainstream. Birds can usually hear wind turbines and fly around them, more birds get killed by cars every year than fly into them.

    • Jim Wiegand Reply

      July 19, 2015 at 10:37 AM

      Anyone can look up and quote rigged research. This is what you have done.Nothing kills rare and endangered species like wind turbines. In fact wind turbines in America each year kill far more birds than the Gulf oil spill.

      Grand scale tax gobbling “green” wind projects are slaughtering grounds for wildlife. They projects produce little energy, are enormously expensive, and mortality monitoring is nothing more than a Mexican exercise in corruption.

      Hidden from the public is that there is no other energy source even close to slaughtering off protected species like the “clean” wind energy does. And when you look at the small amount of energy actually produced from these sprawling projects and compare the wind industry slaughter to that caused by other primary sources of energy per kWh, wind energy is thousands of times more deadly to these protected species.

      The mortality footprint for every turbine extends thousands of miles. Wind not only doesn’t add much to the grid, it is slaughtering off our migratory and highly protected species. Just imagine all the mountain top destruction and mortality from wind turbines, if this industry added another 2-3 million of these monsters needed to replace coal use in the US. The devastation would be staggering.

      Since 1997 approximately 31,000 eagle carcasses have been shipped to the Denver Eagle Repository of which thousands have come from around wind farms. The cause of death and exact locations where these 31,000 eagles were found has never been disclosed by the Interior Department, even though once upon a time the USFWS did disclose that wind farms were a primary source of the eagle carcasses sent to this Repository set up by the Clinton Administration. But even though the Interior Department has all this critical dead eagle information, they continue to pump out fraudulent studies for the public as though none of this information exists.

      America’s Interior Department is a disgrace because they’ve been deliberately protecting this fraudulent industry for decades by endorsing the wind industry’s non-scientific rigged research and supplementing this turbine fraud with the their own bogus research (minus all the repository data). They have then provided the wind industry with Mexican style “voluntary regulations” that mean NOTHING.

      At the Tar sands regions in Canada, oil production is one of the deadliest places on earth for this industry at their tailing ponds. The current rate of tar sands production is around two million barrels of oil per day and this does create a substantial amount bird mortality, estimated to be 8000 – 100,000 birds per year. But it would take at least a million 1 MW turbines just to make up for the energy from this two million barrels of oil per day production.

      Even if one were to accept the AWEA’s rigged estimate of 2.9 bird fatalities/MW/year, a million more turbines means 2.9 million fatalities per year. This still blows away the highest tar sands bird mortality estimates. But when one accounts for wind industry’s rigged mortality research that went into the low AWEA estimate, the number of bird and bats slaughtered would likely be 50-300 million bird fatalities from a million more installed wind turbines.

      The point of all this is to make people to realize that in KWh comparisons to other sources of energy, nothing comes close to killing our protected species like a wind turbine does. While coal production causes habitat destruction and the tar sands are very deadly to birds, at least these other sources produce a measurable amounts of energy for society.

      We have been building the deadly wind turbines for 30 years and the energy output of wind accounts for about 1/275 of the energy used in America. Of course the public would have known all this decades ago if we didn’t have a government supporting an industry that relies on fraud, corruption, and gag orders to prosper.

    • Jim Wiegand Reply

      July 19, 2015 at 2:38 PM

      Here is a little more about rigged wind industry research and the bogus mortality comparisons we so often hear about wind energy…………..

      Vetted studies mean nothing especially when comparing the industry’s rigged wind energy mortality data to other forms of energy. I have proven many times over in my articles, the ways that the wind industry rigs their studies not to find carcasses or to collect accurate data.

      I am also still holding several unpublicized aces or smoking guns pertaining to rigged studies to be used against this Mexican style corruption if any of this can ever get into a real courtroom.

      So based upon the known 30 year history of wind industry rigging mortality studies and avoiding real scientific studies, no one should believe or ever quote results from mortality comparison studies. The known mortality per MW caused by turbines has been hidden by industry and the Interior Department making everyone of these comparisons false.

  10. Pingback: Cape Wind Project: A Tale of Crony Environmentalism (Part 4) The Rest of the Story | The Valley Patriot

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