Thursday, October 26, 2006

Exposed: MA Audubon Promotes Bird Killing Project

Massachusetts Audubon needs to know they can't have it both ways. And it is up to us and the media to hold their feet to the fire. We need to demand they clearly state that their preliminary approval of the Cape Wind project does not represent a conflict of interest on their part. They need to exclude themselves from any monetary gain, as in a multi-million dollar monitoring contract, should the Cape Wind project go through. It is unconscionable for them to proclaim their interest in protecting the living resource while having the back up financial plan to gain millions of dollars by stepping back from the protection of the living to the counting of the dead.

On the same night as I attended a talk given by Jack Clarke of MA Audubon where he stated unequivocably that MA Audubon was not in support of the Cape Wind project because of the potential to harm birds, his pre-taped video presentation shown at an NPR debate on wind energy stated that he saw no reason not to support it since there would be no harm to birds. Which is it? The public and their membership needs to know.

On one hand MA Audubon's public response to the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Cape Wind project says their scientists concluded that up to 6,000 birds will die should the project be permitted while on the other hand they state in a public newspaper article they never said it.

MA Adudubon. Stop the public lying! And tell the truth. You can't have it both ways.

Boston University Daily Free Press

PERSPECTIVE: Cape Wind is a bird hazard

Issue date: 10/25/06 Section: Opinion

As jury duty serves to remind us, there comes a time when each and every one of us should answer the call for the greater good. This call arrived for me more than three years ago when I first recognized that the developer of the Cape Wind project was serious.

As a life-long resident of Massachusetts, and a frequent visitor to the Cape and Islands, I am concerned about the impact this project would have on the views I cherish.

When I contacted my state representative, she asked, "Who is the interagency liaison?" These words came as an epiphany to me. "I am," was my response.

As a self-appointed interagency liaison, I set out to contact state and federal agencies, politicians, reporters, fishermen, chambers of commerce, preservation groups, the Wampanoag Tribe, attorneys, historic preservationists and any group on my radar for the purpose of information gathering and dissemination.

I now understand that we are involved in a precarious ad hoc review of Cape Wind as we have no comprehensive policy for governance of the waterway or existing zoning of the Outer Continental Shelf now open for development. The left hand does not know what the right hand is doing, and there is no system of checks and balances in place to direct this precedent, unanticipated and nascent off-shore technology.

The Massachusetts Audubon Society offered its "preliminary" approval of Cape Wind during spring 2006, in its press release "Challenge." The preliminary support is conditional and involves the adoption of a multi-million dollar contract, called a monitoring program, the Adaptive Management Plan. The proposed environmental monitoring program is a contract that would begin at construction phase and continue for at least three years post construction per Mass Audubon's specifications.

Mass Audubon has influenced the Sierra Club, Greenpeace and others to support Cape Wind's proposal. Many have interpreted Mass Audubon's "preliminary approval" of Cape Wind as "no harm to birds" as the final word on Cape Wind, by an "unbiased" advocacy group acting in the interest of birds.

But, the federal regulatory agency in the Cape Wind permit review process is the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and they have rebuffed Mass Audubon's tentative endorsement, calling it premature and unhelpful to the wind farm project's overall review.

"We're not on the same page," said Vernon Lang, supervisor of Fish and Wildlife's New England field office and the agency's lead official on the Cape Wind proposal.

My letter July 26 regarding Nantucket Sound's aviary population, and Mass Audubon's "Challenge" that was published in South Coast Today's closing question was: "I wish to challenge Mass Audubon to answer one question: What agency do they suggest should be eligible to bid on, or awarded this lucrative, long-term monitoring contract if Cape Wind is permitted in Nantucket Sound?"

Taber Allison of Mass Audubon responded with a letter of his own to South Coast Today editors: Letter writer gets bird facts wrong "Barbara Durkin repeatedly misquotes our public comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Study for the proposed Cape Wind project in Nantucket Sound as she does most recently in her July 26 Letter to the Editor.

Mass Audubon scientists have never concluded that up to 6,600 birds-or any number of birds-would be killed if this project is permitted." His letter continued: "We don't understand Ms. Durkin's closing question."

The President of Mass Audubon, Laura A. Johnson, submitted Mass Audubon's comments stating, "By utilizing other bird mortality data provided in the [Cape Wind Draft Environmental Impact Statement], Mass Audubon staff scientists arrived at avian mortalities that ranged from 2,300 to 6,600 collision deaths per year."

I later asked Jack Clarke of Mass Audubon to disclose any financial interest that Mass Audubon or their fledgling agencies may have if Cape Wind is permitted at a Clean Power Now offshore Wind Power Symposium held at Cape Cod Community College in August 2006. "I don't know what you mean by contract," was his response.

Mass Audubon must address its imposed "condition" of their preliminary approval of Cape Wind. Disclosure of any potential financial interest Mass Audubon my have in the outcome of the Cape Wind proposal is the only satisfactory measure that will reveal their objectivity and lack of bias as they collect and analyze data and comment on the same in this permit review process.

As Nantucket Sound is an endangered species habitat, and these species fall under federal protection, we have moral and legal responsibilities to consider.

Mass Audubon must disclose if it has a financial interest in the outcome of the Cape Wind review process as a permit reviewing agency by way of the Adaptive Management Plan contract.

The public should know that if Cape Wind is permitted, up to 6,600 bird carcasses per year could be counted by Mass Audubon for profit, and that is perverse.

Cape Wind needs to be under an objective review if we are to anticipate a positive outcome. We can ill afford, considering the magnitude of the precedent Cape Wind would set, to look away.

We must be vigilant and consistently evaluate any potential for conflict of interest or bias concerning any parties involved in the Cape Wind review process. We must guard against a financial interest driven outcome by a reviewing agency in this Cape Wind ad hoc review process.

We have a prima facie reason to question the objectivity of the subsequent analysis by Mass Audubon as it now stands.

Barbara Durkin is a resident of Northboro, Mass.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Should the Fox Guard the Hen House?

Will Mass Audubon benefit from Cape Wind project?
Barbara Durkin

The Cape Wind project is proposed for an ecosystem and aviary corridor with documented endangered species, and that is under current and conflicting use as an essential fish habitat. "Clean, green, renewable" is not benign when it represents an industrial-scale wind facility comparable in scale to a land area the size of Manhattan Island proposed to be introduced into this ecosystem.

The magnitude of the Cape Wind project, along with the fact that this is nascent technology, merits deep consideration.

One consideration that must be evaluated is the objectivity of any agency involved in the permit review process. If, as example, Mass Audubon has a financial stake, for whatever reason, in the outcome of any inquiry, such as the process of accounting for any wildlife mortality that stems from a major power plant such as Cape Wind, then that is a prima facie reason to question the objectivity of the subsequent analysis. That Mass Audubon, or any of its members, would profit from a project it was reviewing, should clue any reasonable observer that the results might be tainted. Mass Audubon's "preliminary approval" of Cape Wind is taken at face value: "no harm to birds."

Mass Audubon's "Challenge" states: "We also propose adoption of an Adaptive Management Plan that includes a rigorous monitoring program beginning at the construction phase and continuing for at least three years post-construction, mitigation measures in the event that the project results in significant adverse environmental impacts..."

The condition Mass Audubon has imposed on its preliminary approval of Cape Wind is a monitoring contract worth multimillions of dollars. This monitoring contract language is the most strongly stated condition of Mass Audubon's preliminary approval of Cape Wind in its "Challenge."

The president of Mass Audubon, Laura A. Johnson, submitted these comments on the Cape Wind draft environmental impact study on Feb. 23, 2005, to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers:

"By utilizing other bird mortality data provided in the DEIS, Mass Audubon staff scientists arrived at avian mortalities that ranged from 2,300 to 6,600 collision deaths per year."

However, Taber Allison of Mass Audubon, in his Aug. 3, 2006, letter to SouthCoast Today, has stated, "Mass Audubon scientists have never concluded that up to 6,600 birds, or any number of birds, would be killed if this project is permitted."

Mass Audubon must disclose any potential financial benefit it might have in the outcome of the Cape Wind proposal if it is to be considered an objective and unbiased reviewing agency. Mass Audubon must declare if it or its affiliations are to become the monitoring agency, or will bid on this contract, or accept this contract that it imposes as a condition of its "preliminary approval" by its "Challenge" so that we can all "get this right."

Time is of the essence.

Barbara Durkin Northboro, MA