Congressmen call for review of environmental siting guidelines

Two West Virginia congressmen have asked for a review of the US Fish and Wildlife Service's draft interim siting guidelines for wind plant to see if they are strict enough to protect their state's environmental resources. Democratic Representatives Alan Mollohan and Nick Rahall made the request to the US General Accounting Office (GAO), the investigative arm of Congress. Mollohan claims that "speculators are staking claim to some of our most scenic areas and erecting these monstrosities that produce little energy and are made possible only by a tax credit." The GAO agreed to do the study, prompting a newly formed group, Citizens for Responsible Wind Power, to ask the state's Public Service Commission (PSC) to block construction of wind turbines in the state until its report is issued. "We cannot let the destruction of our precious highlands happen," group president Linda Cooper told the West Virginia Sunday Gazette. Wind project developer NedPower LLC had hoped to build a 200 turbine project in the state and US Wind Force has a construction permit for a 225 MW development. The American Wind Energy Association has criticised the draft guidelines as "out of touch" with the modern wind industry and says they would impose an undue economic burden on developers. Talks on the guidelines are continuing. Meanwhile, West Virginia PSC's three commissioners have not decided whether to adopt a set of rules that would help them determine where wind energy projects should be built. In 2003, the state legislature ordered the PSC to come up with a set of siting criteria after environmentalists complained the agency granted permits to the NedPower and Mount Storm projects without any such guidelines.