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Maryland bird study controversy

Two pro-wind advocates have called for the resignation of the conservation chair for the Maryland chapter of the Sierra Club, Dan Boone, saying he is suppressing science that would be favourable to several wind energy projects in the state.

Mike Tidwell, head of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, and Gary Skulnik, head of a pro-business group called the Clean Energy Partnership, are accusing Boone of engaging in "anti-wind rhetoric" that is not consistent with the environmental organisation's mission.

Skulnik says he is particularly annoyed by Boone's refusal to release a bird study related to a project proposed by Clipper Windpower. The 100.5 MW project, known as Criterion, is located about 25 miles north of FPL's Mountaineer wind farm where seasonal bat kills have been noted. It is expected to be operational by the end of the year.

Boone and several others intervened legally to prohibit Clipper's project from moving forward, based on the grounds of inadequate science. Rather than pursue a lengthy and expensive litigation, Clipper agreed to a compromise. Boone and colleagues would withdraw their objections, but be allowed to choose their own scientists to do a follow-up study, paid for by Clipper, on avian use of the area. Clipper stipulated, however, that the results could not be released until after the turbines are up and turning.

The study is now complete, but only the researchers know the results. Clipper is now requesting it be made public, saying the earlier than expected release would simply be using good judgment. Boone is refusing to abide by that request, saying early release will help another company that has a project planned for nearby ridgelines.

Others in the environmental community, including Tidwell and Skulnik, want the data made public as soon as possible. Because Boone will not agree to the release, says Skulnik, he should not be allowed to continue in his voluntary position with the Sierra Club. Glen Besa, the Sierra Club's Appalachian region director, says the call for Boone's resignation is inappropriate. "Dan Boone is very dedicated to birds and to wildlife in general," he says. "We want to make it clear that the Sierra Club is strongly in favour of wind power, but at the same time we realize that each site has to be looked at on an individual basis."

Boone, who has repeatedly evoked the ire of leaders in the wind industry for his outspoken questioning of project siting and wildlife protection issues, says that he is most definitely not anti-wind. "I'm just someone who is concerned about getting wind energy facilities adequately evaluated and properly sited," he said. "The nub of this battle is going to be whether the US Fish & Wildlife regulations are going to be used as the standard for protection of the nation's wildlife."

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