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Concern for Bats Won’t Block Ohio Wind Farm

(CN) - Wind-turbine opponents failed to persuade a federal judge that concern for the endangered Indiana bat justifies their challenge of an Ohio wind farm.

Ohio-based Union Neighbors United brought the 2013 complaint in Washington, D.C., taking issue with the U.S. government's approval of a permit for the Buckeye Wind Power Project.

The Indiana bat has been listed as an endangered species since 1967. Though the species does not hibernate in the general area of that proposed facility in west-central Champaign County, it does migrate through the area during the spring and fall.

In its application for an incidental take permit under the Endangered Species act, Buckeye Wind LLC estimated that its 100-turbine wind-generation facility, with use of various controls, would injure or kill 5.2 bats per year.

Finding that the proposal to lower turbine speeds during certain months met statutory standards, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved Buckeye Wind in 2013 for a five-year limit of 26 bat takings.

U.S. District Judge Richard Leon granted the agency's director and Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell summary judgment on Tuesday, finding no violation of the Administrative Procedures Act, the National Environmental Policy Act or the Endangered Species Act.

The 15-page opinion credits the finding by FWS "that the minimization and mitigation measures 'fully offset' the impact of the taking of Indiana bats, and thus, it was not necessary to determine if the plan was the 'maximum that can be practically implemented.'"

"FWS used the best available scientific evidence and modeling, as well as its expertise, to conclude that the proposal will adequately protect the Indiana Bat," Leon wrote.

Union Neighbors United - which is primarily concerned with opposing wind farms in residential areas, rather than protecting bats - had told the court that many of its members who live near the facility felt that the wind farm would reduce their ability to enjoy bat sightings.

Under development since 2006, the Buckeye Wind Project will generate 657,000 megawatt hours of electricity per year for the surrounding area, according to the ruling, which cites a joint appendix of the administrative record.

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