Pennsylvania wildlife agency says no to wind turbines on game lands wind energy news electricity for beginners pdf


Developers have proposed to harness wind energy from the ridges of 19 state game lands since 2005. Every time, the Pennsylvania Game Commission has found the proposed development too destructive to habitat and too disruptive to wildlife and hunters.

On Tuesday, the agency’s six commissioners voted to make their implied message blunter: Wind development is not allowed on any state game lands because it is incompatible with the commission’s obligations to protect wildlife and promote recreation. The moratorium was adopted unanimously.

“It is unfortunate that the Pennsylvania Game Commission endorses logging and natural gas extraction on state lands, but has chosen not to allow wind energy,” said Bryan Garner, a spokesman for NextEra Energy Resources, which recently sought to lease 345 acres for a wind farm in Lackawanna County.

Because Pennsylvania’s windy ridges are often managed by the state’s public land agencies, their exclusion of wind turbines has contributed to the dearth of new wind farms, said Allison Rohrs, director of the Institute for Energy at Saint Francis University.

A December report from the institute found about 35 percent of the remaining developable wind acreage in Pennsylvania is off limits because it is on public lands controlled by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, which does not have the legal authority to lease it, and the game commission, which forbids it.

The agency is often compelled to allow oil and gas development because the state does not control all of the mineral rights, he said. Or it signs leases – as it did for a $2.15 million bonus payment this week – with companies that can tap the gas from wells drilled on surrounding private property without disturbing the surface of the game land.

Mr. Sussenbach also said there is not much activity after the initial rush to develop a gas well. Foresters and biologists review well pad designs so they have the least amount of impact, and gas companies have been responsive to suggestions for habitat improvement.

To overcome the commission’s concerns, a wind developer would have to show “that you are not destroying a habitat, a windmill is not going to cause an impact to birds and mammals, and that there is not going to be impacts – significant impacts, long term – to the recreational use of that area.”

The Institute for Energy report examined three wind proposals rejected between 2006 and 2011 for State Game Land 42 in Cambria, Somerset and Westmoreland counties, and an environmental analysis questionnaire for a 1990 oil and gas lease approved for the same game land.

“I know that fossil fuels are much more destructive,” said Laura Jackson, who has leadership roles with the Juniata Valley Audubon Society and Save Our Allegheny Ridges. Both organizations oppose wind development on forested ridges because they are uniquely valuable resources for clean water and migratory birds.

The project earned headlines last June, when Wall Street bank Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. announced it had signed a long-term power-purchase agreement with NextEra that would allow the project to be built. The agreement is meant to help the bank meet its global electricity demands with entirely renewable energy.