In a week that saw billionaire real estate mogul and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump lose major partners — including NBC, Macy’s and the PGA — due to his controversial comments about Mexican immigrants, an ironic twist in an Irish legal battle has given him something to write home about.
Trump didn’t want a nine turbine wind farm constructed within sight of his Doonbeg golf course along Ireland’s Atlantic coast, and now — thanks to a small, freshwater pearl mussel — the wind farm has been denied approval.
While the wind farm attracted 42 objections, including opposition from local environmental groups on the grounds that the turbines might harm the nearby aquatic habitat, the charge against it was led by Trump and his legal team.
According to the Irish Examiner, Trump International Golf Links employed consultants that claimed the wind farm would “have a detrimental impact on the viability” of the Doonbeg golf resort. They stated that “the resort primarily relies on bookings from international and, in particular, the North American market and a reduction in bookings as a consequence of the visual impact from the proposed development will have a serious negative impact on tourism in the area.”
The inspector in the case recommended the 413-foot high wind farm be refused for a number of reasons, including the way the wind turbines would alter the view from the golf course. In the final decision to deny the wind farm, the board refused it on only one condition — the impact it would have on the mussels.
The EU-protected freshwater pearl mussel is an ancient species that hasn’t evolved for some 50 million years, and can live up to 120 years. Nearly 9/10ths of these mussels died out across Europe over the last 100 or so years, and it is estimated that around 7,000 of them live in the Doonbeg river near the golf course.
In nearby Scotland, Trump has also been bashing wind farms and promoting golf courses. At the opening of a new golf resort in June, Trump accused former Scottish first minister Alex Salmond of destroying “some of the great beauty of the world” by advancing green energy. Scotland is a global leader in onshore and offshore wind power. The Scottish government hopes to generate enough renewable energy to power 100 percent of the country’s demand by 2020, and in 2014 it got halfway there.
An Edinburgh court recently dismissed Trump Organization’s claim that a European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre about two miles away from his Scottish golf course would interfere with the Aberdeenshire facility. According to The Financial Times the court said none of the evidence supplied by Trump’s lawyers came “anywhere near to supporting the petitioners’ suspicions.”
If only there was an endangered species nearby that Trump could use to his advantage.
While Trump is clearly engaging the debate around large-scale renewable energy and local environmental impacts for his own personal gain, there is a serious discussion to be had about how solar parks, wind farms, and other massive energy projects like hydropower dams take a toll on local ecology. In the desert, solar parks can disrupt turtle habitat, as has occurred in inland California. Both wind farms and solar parks can cause bird deaths, and large hydropower plants can uproot communities and submerge important habitats underwater.
Trump generally has not engaged in discussion about energy or climate change unless it relates to his business interests, but he has taken to Twitter some 41 times since 2011 to air his doubts about climate change — especially when the weather is cold. As ClimateProgress recently reported, in that time he has used cold weather and unexpected (or unwanted) snowfall to make this argument eight times, and tweeted five times solely about snow to refute mainstream climate science.