How much “collateral damage” is ok?

11 Mar 2013

In 2010, I blogged about one solar company trying to mitigate the impacts of its operations on desert tortoises.  We’ve also previously blogged about turning off night lighting in tall buildings to protect birds and the 2012 Federal guidance adopted to minimize bird strikes from windturbines.  When implementing or developing new technologies, we take wildlife impacts more into account now than we did a hundred years ago. But is it enough?

The Huffington Post recently ran an article about a lawsuit claiming that the Federal government under-estimates these impacts when dealing with “alternative” energy projects.

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires Federal agencies to prepare environmental impact statements (EISs) for “major” Federal actions that significantly impact the environment. NEPA’s requirements are triggered when airports, buildings, military complexes, highways, parkland purchases, permits and other federal activities are proposed.  Environmental Assessments (EAs) and EISs evaluate the likelihood of impacts from alternative courses of action.

NEPA review often reveals possible mitigation measures or problems that can change or even stop a project.  NEPA does not require zero impacts and often requires a balancing of the benefits of a project against the harms (which are considered cumulatively as part of a continuum – taking into account harms possible in the future).  These analyses are often quite speculative and subject to challenge (as has been seen with the recent NEPA review of the Keystone XL Pipeline).

When it comes to bird protection, an Ann Arbor venture may have come up with a less expensive, more efficient way to predict and more importantly, minimize bird strikes by better measurement.  Omicept uses cameras and computers to observe and identify birds in a potential development site.  Knowing the numbers and types of birds in an area is an important first step to determining how best to avoid them or in determining the likelihood of strikes – particularly of endangered birds.  While this won’t eliminate all collateral damage – it may help minimize it, making NEPA approvals more accurate and, therefore, easier in the future.


Leave a Comment to “How much “collateral damage” is ok?”

  1. Bob Mattler 12. Mar, 2013 at 7:34 am #


    Didn’t know you were a card carrying member of the
    Audubon Society ? Good seeing you at Hillel the other
    day. Let me know if you are or become aware of any
    distress properties for sale (retail, office or multi-
    family) as I have several people looking. Thanks.
    Have a Great Day !

    Bob M.
    248-762-4370 cell

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