The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

December 9, 2012

Views vary on environmental effects

JOHNSTOWN — Morning after morning, for eight or nine months out of the year, workers walk for miles across local wind farms, looking for dead bats and birds.

Their efforts are part of an overall plan to understand the environmental impact of windmills on nature.

Operators of Pennsylvania’s wind farms voluntarily collect the data and submit it to the state game commission for review. In a March 2011 report, the commission determined an average of 24.6 bats and 3.9 birds were found dead next to every turbine per year between 2007 and 2009.

The information gathered helps the state and wind farm owners better understand the animals’ migratory patterns.

“They hope to use this information for the future when they hope to site new wind farms. … Quite a bit of it is prospective,” said Ed Shoener, owner of Shoener Environmental, which conducts bat and bird searches on local land.

Along with tracking migrations, the wind companies, government agencies and independent organizations analyze the environmental impact on water and land.

PennEnvironment, a pro-wind organization, recently released a report, claiming the commonwealth’s windmills fight global warming by displacing as much pollution as produced annually by 218,000 cars. “It’s no surprise that wind power is good for our environment; we’ve known that for years,” said PennEnvironment clean water advocate Erika Staaf. “But our report, for the first time, quantifies the full environmental impact and other environmental and health benefits that Pennsylvanians get from wind power.”

Many proponents of wind power consider it a valuable asset in developing a diversified statewide energy portfolio that includes coal, solar, Marcellus Shale natural gas, hydroelectric, oil and nuclear.

“We’re calling ourselves the energy county,” said Cambria County Commissioner Mark Wissinger. “We’re pretty much blessed with the coal and we’ve got the Marcellus coming our way. We’ve got natural gas. We’re even looking into some hydroelectric. That we have a position for energy here with wind is a big part of our formula.”

A lot of opponents feel the wind industry does not help reduce pollution enough to justify damage it does to nature, such as killing bats and birds and removing oxygen-producing trees from the land.

In the Appalachian Mountains region, including Pennsylvania, the density of potential wind power capacity is generally less than 100 kilowatt-hours per square kilometer, according to a 2007 report issued by the National Research Council titled “Environmental Effects of Wind Energy Projects.”

“The wind potential along the Appalachian ridges is relatively weak compared to other regions of the U.S., like the Great Plains from Texas up to the Dakotas. ... The forested Appalachian ridges are what remain of the wilderness in the area. Basically, we’re doing damage to that for very little in return,” said Rick Webb, a senior scientist with the Department of Environmental Sciences at the University of Virginia and operator of the website vawind.com.

Somerset County has been dealing with the environmental impact of turbines since its first wind farm opened in 2000.

“I think that once the windmills are installed and in place (the issues are) negligible,” said Somerset County Commissioner Joe Betta. “That might not be a popular view. I walk near them. You hear a little bit of noise, but not much.”

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat print edition.

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat e-edition.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local News
  • Halfway house inmates can ease back into society

    Prison life can be a time warp.
    When inmates are locked away – for months, years, decades – society moves forward: Technology evolves, major events occur, pop culture changes. From a personal perspective, families and friends live their lives: weddings, funerals, graduations, births, retirements. All the while, criminals bide their time, existing in a regimented world of cement walls and metal bars.
    Almost all of them eventually rejoin society, though.

    April 19, 2014

  • Crime board took aim at house

    Johnstown’s unemployment rate is around 8 percent.
    One-third of the city’s population lives in poverty.
    Burglaries and assaults significantly increased between 2010 and 2012. There is a thriving illegal trade in heroin and prescription drugs.
    Given those conditions, it can be challenging for Johnstown Community Corrections Center residents to find jobs when living in the facility or to avoid falling back into a criminal lifestyle upon their release.

    April 19, 2014

  • Homicides linked to center

    Three homicides that took place in Johnstown last year involved either a suspect or victim who previously resided in the Community Corrections Center.
    Police Chief Craig Foust confirmed the name of one victim, who spent almost two months in the facility on Washington Street during 2007, a time period verified by the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections.

    April 19, 2014

  • bachota Volunteers helping to spruce up community

    Walls and ceilings inside the Cambria County Library look clean and bright with fresh new coats of paint on them.
    The work was recently done by inmates from the Johnstown Community Corrections Center.

    April 19, 2014 2 Photos

  • alanna Hartzok targets income disparity

    Alanna Hartzok described herself as being a conservative progressive.
    The Franklin County resident said she is in favor of conserving environmental resources, education opportunities, Social Security and Medicare, while wanting to progressively address wealth inequality, health care and taxation.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Schools rise to leadership challenge

    Forest Hills and Cambria Heights high school students put the spirit of healthy competition toward a good cause and picked up some lessons in leadership along the way.

    April 19, 2014

  • KATEY LADIKA Student’s photos win awards

    A Forest Hills High School junior has captured several awards in a high school arts and writing contest that has identified greats such as Truman Capote and Andy Warhol.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Jim Siehl JIM SIEHL | Music to my ears

    Seldom has $15 produced such a high level of entertainment as it did a few weeks ago when I found myself in the second row just left of center keeping back the tears once again during my third live performance of “Les Miserables.”

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Michele Bender Bye, bye, Easter birdies

    Animals fascinated my mom. Riding the train between Johnstown and Philly, she saw horses, pigs, sheep, cows … a Mattel See ’n Say of farm critters.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Bill Eggert Columnist Photo Travelogue of terror features Johnstown area

    A historic week will surround the venerable Silver Drive-In come the beginning of May.

    April 19, 2014 2 Photos

Poll

Would you like to see the Johnstown Community Corrections Center remain open after its lease runs out on Oct. 11, 2015?

Yes
No
I'm not sure
     View Results
House Ads