United States

United States

Start to voluntary guidelines -- Safeguarding wildlife

A nationwide panel of 22 handpicked experts will inaugurate the Wind Turbine Guidance Advisory Committee in February, charged with providing voluntary guidelines for mitigating wildlife and habitat impacts from land-based wind energy developments in all 50 states. While voluntary, experts believe the measures will carry weight throughout the US as a central guiding model for states and local jurisdictions to look to.

The committee, representing government, environment and industry, is under the combined watch of the US Department of the Interior and the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and stems from interim guidelines for siting wind projects drafted by the FWS in 2003. "We wanted to have geographic representation, we wanted to have representation both from industry and environmental groups, we wanted to have representatives from federal and state organisations and Native American tribes, among others," says FWS's Dave Stout, who heads the committee. He adds that the committee listened "mightily" to the American Wind Energy Association in terms of its recommendations to get industry represented in the group.

Stout also says extra effort was made to acknowledge smaller developers, represented by committee member Rich Rayhill of Seattle's Ridgeline Energy. In addition to Rayhill, members representing development are Michael Azeka of AES Wind Generation; Andrew Linehan of PPM Energy; Winifred Perkins of Florida Power & Light; Steven Quarles of Crowell & Moring; Patrick Traylor of Hogan & Hartson; and Troy Vickers of BP Alternative Energy.

No surprises

The remaining 15 are a mix of government representatives, such as John Geesman, a commissioner with the California Energy Commission, and wildlife groups such as the Nature Conservancy and the National Audubon Society. Appointments are for two years, while four or more meetings a year are expected.

Rayhill does not expect any surprises, saying the groups all quite familiar with each other and each representatives' concerns; this familiarity will foster easier associations and easy exchange of ideas. "You're not going to be able to anticipate every circumstance and there's always the law of unintended consequences," Rayhill says. "But there will be chances for input and I think it will all be vetted as we go. It's going to be a very open process and, if we can put it together, then you're going to end up with a really good living, working document. I think that's exciting."

Stout says the key to the success of the committee is how well it can define the right issues. "The industry wants reasonableness, they want predictability, they want fairness and they want consistency. But we're a federal agency and so these guidelines would be as big as the New York City phonebook if we tried to answer every question."

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