By Miriam Raftery
Photo: Eagle killed at a Danish wind farm; courtesy Save the Eagles
December 15, 2016 (Washington D.C.) – Wind energy companies will be immune from prosecution for up to 30 years, even if their wind turbines kill or injure up to 4,200 bald or golden eagles, under a new rule finalized this week by the Obama administration.
The ruling flies in the face of federal laws that would otherwise result in stiff penalties for killing or injuring even a single eagle. All eagles are protected under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. But now wind companies can evade prosecution as long as they take steps to diminish eagle losses, such as reducing risk of electrocution by retrofitting power poles.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe issued a statement indicating that the USFW is trying to balance clean energy development and the need to reduce global warming against eagle conservation goals.
Michael Hutchins with American Bird Conservancy voiced “serious concerns” about the ruling’s potential impact on eagles. Fast-whirling wind turbine blades have been known to kill thousands of eagles at the Altamont wind farm in northern California, with deaths reported at numerous other wind facilities as well.
The new rule, which takes effect in January, does require permits issued to wind companies be reviewed every five years. The companies will also be required to report eagle deaths.
It is unlikely that the Trump administration would undo the decision, given the anti-environmental stances of his key cabinet appointees.
Tom Kiernan, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association, has said the industry has “minimal impact” on eagles but praised the goal of the ruling, Associated Press reports.
But Jim Wiegand, a wildlife biologist with Save the Eagles International, blasted the ruling in an e-mail to ECM.
“Both parties are in on this corrupt criminal act. I know this to be true because I heard no outrage from any of our elected officials,” Wiegand said. “And then thanks to our corrupt media, the public has no idea how little energy these worthless turbines produce. But by God they sure do deliver the profits. Rigging like this is killing this country and the world.”
Locally, wildlife advocates have voiced serious concerns over the potential impact on golden eagles posed of Tule Wind, slated to be built soon in McCain Valley in San Diego’s East County.