The March 22, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution featured a detailed, well-written article by reporter Ariel Hart titled “Rare bat stalls Ga. roadwork.” The article mentions in May 2012, a single Indiana bat was seen in a tree in North Georgia. This bat is an Endangered Species since 1967.
Consequently, federal regulations must be followed on land use regarding road projects in Northern Georgia. Projects must not “harm, kill, or harass” the bats. Currently $459 million in Georgia road projects are delayed up to one and one-half years. The cost of studies is between $80,000 and $120,000 per project and the total for the 104 projects in the next three years may be $8 million.
Indiana bats are named because a large proportion of them hibernate from early fall to early spring in Indiana caves. Thus habitat studies are only conducted in late spring and summer and obviously large numbers of Indiana bats are from Indiana.
The irony of Georgia’s pain from habitat studies is the Fowler Ridge wind farm in north-west Indiana with 355 gigantic wind turbines covering 50,000 acres built 2008-2010. An additional 150 wind turbines are planned for the site in the near future. Adjacent to this wind farm is the 2009 Meadow Lake Wind Farm with 121 wind turbines. This Benton County, Indiana location is one of the largest concentration of wind turbines in the world.
It is long known wind turbines are devastating to bat populations. A U. S. Geological Survey report, “Bat Fatalities at Wind Turbines: Investigating the Causes and Consequences” mentions thousands of bats are killed annually at wind turbine sites around the world. More detailed descriptions of environmental problems of wind turbines is found a recent blog post by me: “Violent Environmental Problems With Wind Turbine Operation“.
Besides being minced by turbine blade rotations, bats are subject to deaths by other means as explained by the August 26, 2008 Scientific American article “On a Wing and Low Air: The Surprising Way Wind Turbines Kill Bats.” Bats are killed by pressure pulses causing burst blood vessels in their lungs. As nocturnal creatures, bats are particularly vulnerable to wind turbines because wind turbine operations are frequently late at night when demand for electricity is at its lowest.
Now questions arise about the U. S. Government having dual standards about safety of humans and bats. Road projects in Georgia are for purposes of improving traffic flow and safety and reducing air pollution by increasing automobile operation efficiency. There is no question lives are saved by improved traffic flow on four-lane roads versus two-lane roads with potential for head-on collisions. Using EPA standards for reduced air pollution due to more efficient automobile operations, the potential for lives saved may be in the hundreds. The delay of possibly one and one-half years for bat habitat studies will cost Georgians lives. These delays are to prevent the “harm, kill, or harass” of a few and maybe no bats.
In Indiana, the origin of Indiana bats, thousands of bats perish annually due to wind farms in Benton County where no standards to protect bat habitats are enforced. Additional wind farms are strewn all over the Midwest due to its favorable wind speeds. Consequently, millions of bats die yearly due to wind farm operations. Apparently the U. S. Government’s enthusiasm for promoting renewable energy resources allows ignoring the fate of animals listed by the Endangered Species Act.
In Georgia federal regulations super cede common sense and Georgia citizens are subject to “harm, kill, or harass” over interests of a few Indiana bats. Bats are more important than Georgia citizens. This may be the penalty for being a red state.