National Audubon Society sues California County for improving bird protection over controversial wind power project

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

(Alameda, Calif., November 17, 2021) – The National Audubon Society, the Ohlone Audubon Society, the Golden Gate Audubon Society, the Mount Diablo Audubon Society, and the Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society today filed a lawsuit in Superior Court County of Alameda to challenge Alameda County approval of a new 80 megawatt wind turbine at Altamont Pass, arguing the project lacked sufficient environmental review and failed to adequately assess and avoid impacts on birds and bats. The lawsuit marks the first time the National Audubon Society has taken legal action to prevent approval of a wind power project in California.

“Audubon supports responsibly developed wind projects and works with wind developers who are genuinely interested in avoiding impacts to birds, but we have been forced to take this legal action because Alameda County has broke his commitments and failed to protect birds and bats in the Altamont pass. for forty years, ”said Mike Lynes, California state policy director for the National Audubon Society. “Alameda County has approved a poorly planned project that it knows will kill golden eagles and other birds in violation of state and federal laws and which will contribute to the continued decline of golden eagles and other susceptible species. “

The Altamont Pass is home to the densest breeding population of Golden Eagles in the world, as well as significant populations of Western Burrowing Owls, Red-tailed Hawks, Tricolor Blackbirds, other migratory birds and several bat species. The region is also home to the largest wind resource area in the United States, where 5,000 wind turbines were built over an area of ​​56 square miles in the early 1980s without any environmental mitigation. For decades, the Altamont Pass has killed so many golden eagles that it constitutes a “population sink” for the species and contributes to its overall decline in the region.

Supervisors gave their final approval to the project at Mulqueeny Ranch on October 7, rejecting an appeal from National Audubon and the Ohlone, Golden Gate, Mount Diablo and Santa Clara Audubon companies. In the appeal, Audubon also urged the Alameda County Supervisory Board to convene its independent technical advisory committee (TAC) of experts before its final decision to hear its recommendations on how the project could be amended to reduce impacts on birds. But developer Brookfield Renewables, LLC objected to the independent review and county staff refused to convene the TAC before the council hearing.

“Fifteen years ago, Alameda County and the wind companies settled a lawsuit with Audubon chapters and pledged to reduce bird mortality by 50% by 2009. With the approval of this project, the county puts the Altamont Pass back on the brink of killing like many Golden Eagles like 15 years ago, ”said Glenn Phillips, executive director of the Golden Gate Audubon Society. “While he admits it hasn’t cut bird deaths by 50%, the county wouldn’t even convene its technical advisory committee to receive recommendations before making a final decision. Instead, the county relied entirely on the advice of Brookfield’s environmental consultant.

“The people of Alameda County want to see renewable energy located responsibly, but we are fed up with the county breaking through on its promises to protect wildlife and do what the wind developers want,” said William Hoppe. , Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Ohlone Audubon Society. “It’s time for some balance, where Alameda County is listening to wildlife experts to make sure wind projects avoid and minimize damage to birds and bats as much as possible.”

“At Audubon, we understand better than anyone that climate change poses an existential threat to humans and birds, and the responsible development of renewable energy is essential to switch from fossil fuels. But the need for renewable energy is no excuse to wipe out local populations of wildlife, ”said Ariana Rickard, vice president of the Mount Diablo Audubon Society. “Wind companies make billions and can afford to ensure that projects are sited responsibly and include adequate mitigation measures to reduce impacts on sensitive species. “

“Alameda County and Brookfield refused to adopt scientific recommendations from top experts at the US Fish & Wildlife Service and California Department of Fish & Wildlife that would have reduced bird damage while leaving Brookfield a viable project Matthew said. Dodder, executive director of Santa Clara Valley Audubon. “We are only asking Alameda County to keep its promises to conduct objective and scientific reviews of projects and ensure that they are properly sized, located and mitigated to minimize damage to birds and bats.”

Mitch Tsai is representing the National Audubon Society and the Ohlone, Golden Gate, Mount Diablo and Santa Clara Audubon Societies in the lawsuit. The case is The Audubon National Society v. Alameda County.

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CONTACT:
Jason Howe, [email protected]; 415-595-9245

About Audubon
The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow. Audubon works across the Americas using science, advocacy, education, and conservation in the field. State programs, nature centers, chapters and partners give Audubon an unprecedented scale reaching millions of people each year to inform, inspire and unite diverse communities in conservation actions. A non-profit conservation organization since 1905, Audubon believes in a world in which people and wildlife thrive. Learn more about www.audubon.org and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @audubonsociety.

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