Lawsuit says condors at risk from California wind project

A 300-MW wind project threatens endangered California condors, a lawsuit filed by three environmental organization charges.

The Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife and the Sierra Club said in the lawsuit that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) improperly approved the 100-turbine North Sky River wind project in the Tehachapi region of California. NextEra Energy Resources is the project developer. The developer is a subsidiary of NextEra Energy (NYSE: NEE).

The suit, filed April 13, says that a neighboring wind farm, Pine Tree, has killed at least eight golden eagles and that California condors could be at risk from the new development.

The North Sky River project is under construction and has a 25-year power purchase agreement with PG&E. It is slated for completion by the end of the year.

The conservation groups say they met several times with the project’s developer, asking that the 100-turbine North Sky River wind project be redesigned to avoid known environmentally sensitive areas in the southern Sierra Nevadas and to include measures to reduce harm to at-risk bird species.

The project spans 12,700 acres. The suit alleges that warnings from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the California Department of Fish and Game were ignored by Kern County supervisors, who approved zoning changes to accommodate the project.

The conservation groups also say the BLM discounted danger to rare and endangered species in granting NextEra, permission to build a new transmission line and improve an access road to the proposed site across public lands. The groups’ lawsuit contends that the BLM violated federal law by focusing only on the threats from the power line and road, while entirely ignoring harm from the wind development itself. The groups are asking the court to stop the project and require the BLM to complete a thorough review before allowing construction to move forward.

“Building another poorly designed wind project adjacent to one that’s under investigation for numerous eagle deaths just doesn’t make sense,” said Barbara Boyle, Sierra Club senior representative in California. “This project is right in the pathway of California condors moving back into their historic range in California. There is a better way — we need to locate these projects where they will pose fewer risks and have a better chance for success.”