September 12, 2007
King v Kenedy, still fighting it out

Yet another update in the King v Kenedy battle over wind farms, which last we visited here.

Environmental groups will appeal a judge's ruling that denied a public hearing into construction of a transmission line for two proposed wind farms planned in Kenedy County, attorneys said Monday.

Friday, a state judge denied the Coastal Habitat Alliance's request for a public hearing into the construction of a transmission line that would carry electricity from two proposed wind farms planned south of Baffin Bay.

The coalition of groups that includes the King Ranch, the American Bird Conservancy and the Lower Laguna Madre Foundation "expressed extreme disappointment" but will appeal to the Texas Public Utility Commission, attorneys said.

The group has "standing to argue for the protection of one of the world's most unique natural habitats as well as the preservation of thousands of migratory birds, many of them government-protected species," Jim Blackburn, a Houston attorney representing the group, said in a press release.

In his decision, Judge Michael Field ruled a public hearing was not "the appropriate forum for that review."

"None of the (group's) members own land that will be crossed by the proposed (project)," Fields wrote in his ruling. "The (group) has shown no direct affect of this proposed (project) on any of its members."

The Kenedy Foundation called the ruling a victory for private property rights.

"I'm glad to see the integrity of government despite the (influence) of the King Ranch," said Marc Cisneros, chief executive officer of the Kenedy Foundation in Corpus Christi.


The companies plan to build the wind farms about seven miles west of the Intracoastal Waterway, south of Baffin Bay, Cisneros said.

A two-year study monitored radar that showed the site did not lie along the migratory flyway, Cisneros said.

But environmentalists argued that the 400 feet tall wind turbines would stand along the major flyway used by migratory birds across much of the Western Hemisphere.

I agree that migratory birds are the issue here, and I respect Jim Blackburn, but this fight was not about the wind turbines, it was about transmission lines. You're going to have a hard time convincing me that such things pose a serious threat to birds; if they do, we're in deeper doo-doo than this. And frankly, given the history of this fight so far, I don't trust the King Ranch. So color me very skeptical of this.

I've got the Coastal Habitat Alliance's press release beneath the fold. You can judge for yourself. I'd like to see every reasonable effort made to protect the migratory birds, but this particular suit strikes me as more of a delaying effort than anything else. I favor the development of clean energy such as wind, and I'm rooting for the Kenedy Ranch to succeed. We'll see how it goes.

The Coastal Habitat Alliance -- a coalition of nine Texas-based and national organizations working to preserve the Texas Gulf Coast -- today expressed extreme disappointment at a state administrative law judge's denying the group's intervention in an industrial wind project case currently before the Public Utility Commission (PUC) of Texas. The ruling could allow the construction of a 21 mile 345 kV transmission line to serve a 600-turbine industrial wind project located within the Laguna Madre coastal region, without a hearing to examine the potential impacts from the line to migratory birds, bats, butterflies and other species, nor is there likely to be a hearing to examine the compliance of the transmission project with the protection of the sensitive coastal region under the Coastal Management Program. The CHA says it will definitely appeal the ruling. Members remain hopeful that PUC Commissioners will choose to hear their concerns, regardless of the judge's decision, before letting the project move forward. "I believe that this ruling is legally incorrect ," said Jim Blackburn, attorney for the group. "The members of the Coastal Habitat Alliance are directly affected by the proposed transmission line due to the ecological and economic impacts of the transmission line. This ruling denies the Commission extremely valuable resources and information to assist the Commission in its review of the proposed project. The Coastal Habitat Alliance members are uniquely tied to the area to be affected by this proposed transmission line. They have standing to argue for the protection of one of the world's most unique natural habitats, as well as the preservation of thousands of migratory birds -- many of them government-protected species. We intend to argue this issue to the Commission and to the Courts if necessary." The Coastal Habitat Alliance (CHA) was formed to protect the migratory flyway of the Texas Gulf Coast and related coastal habitat from the devastating ecological effects of the proposed Kenedy County industrial wind project. The project as proposed would include a 21 mile high voltage transmission line, 600 wind turbines, and the roads and other infrastructure necessary to support and maintain them, all built in the ecologically precious Laguna Madre area and directly in the path of millions of birds -- including raptors, shorebirds, wading birds and neotropical songbirds -- who migrate through the area twice a year to breeding and wintering grounds. "This isn't about wind power -- we fully support the development of renewable energy resources for Texas," said Winnie Burkett, of the Houston Audubon Society. "But to locate presumably 'eco-friendly' industrial wind projects where they're going to do irreparable damage to wildlife and habitat is unconscionable. Because of the location of this project, the proposed transmission line and associated project will do more environmental harm than good -- and we just can't believe that's the policy our state leaders want to support." "The birds that will be maimed, the wildlife that will be displaced and the habitat that will be razed by this project can't speak for themselves, so we just want to make sure their 'voice' is still considered," said David Newstead, President of the Coastal Bend Audubon Society. "We're sure the PUC is as interested in Texas' ecological and economic well-being as we are. The Commissioners earned their leadership positions through their experience and wisdom, and are not known for just rubber-stamping projects. All we're asking for is a careful and complete analysis of this industrial wind project. CHA also announced significant additional support in its fight to protect unique gulf coast habitat from irreparable harm. Three additional organizations have joined the alliance and three major environmental groups have written letters of support for CHA's request to intervene. The new members are The Galveston Bay Conservation and Preservation Association, the Audubon Outdoor Club of Corpus Christi and the Matagorda Bay Foundation. Additionally, three leading environmental groups have submitted letters of support for CHA's motion to intervene at the PUC. In the letters, Environmental Defense, the Nature Conservancy and Audubon Texas all echoed CHA's main message: Support wind energy, but not at the expense of native wildlife and natural habitat within Texas' ecologically unique Laguna Madre coastal region. "Environmental Defense ... strongly supports the development of renewable energy sources, including wind, when properly sited to minimize ecological damages," wrote Mary Kelly, Co-Director of Land, Water and Wildlife for the national organization. "We realize this can be complicated by the lack of siting guidelines for such projects, but we do not believe that precludes a thorough analysis of these issues by the PUC." "The Nature Conservancy supports renewable energy such as wind power, as long as it minimizes ecological damage," wrote Carter Smith, Texas State Director for the organization. "[But] the Laguna Madre region of the coast provides habitat for an array of plant and animal species ... [and] is home to several endangered species, including aplomado and peregrine falcons, reddish egrets, ferruinous pygmy owls and ocelots." About the Coastal Habitat Alliance The Coastal Habitat Alliance (CHA) is comprised of nine Texas-based and national organizations committed to protecting the migratory flyway of the Texas Gulf Coast and related coastal habitat. CHA members are: · American Bird Conservancy - A nonprofit organization working to conserve wild birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. · Armstrong Ranch - A 50,000-acre ranch located wholly within Kenedy County, Texas, with a primary focus on wildlife and ranching. · The Audubon Outdoor Club of Corpus Christi - A nonprofit organization dedicated to encouraging and perpetuating the observation and conservation of wildlife. · Coastal Bend Audubon Society - A group working to protect avian species throughout the Coastal Bend region, which includes Kenedy County, Texas. · The Galveston Bay Conservation and Preservation Association - A non-profit organization made up of private citizens who are working to keep the Bay waterways and adjacent land areas suitable as a recreational and living environment. · Houston Audubon Society - A nonprofit organization working to promote the conservation and appreciation of birds and wildlife habitat. · King Ranch, Inc. - A 825,000-acre ranch and Registered National Historic Landmark, with a primary concentration on ranching, agriculture and recreationally oriented wildlife management. · Lower Laguna Madre Foundation - A nonprofit organization working to protect the living resources of the lower Laguna Madre, located along the Gulf Coast.

· Matagorda Bay Foundation - Matagorda Bay Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation and protection of Matagorda and San Antonio Bays.

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Posted by Charles Kuffner on September 12, 2007 to The great state of Texas