Wind farms continue to kill wildlife as government stays silent
The Obama administration is reportedly applying different rules to the killing of birds for wind energy companies and for companies that use non-renewable resources
Around once a month, according to local reports, a golden eagle is killed by the spinning turbines of the wind farms in Wyoming, USA.
Killing these birds is a federal crime, one for which the Obama administration has pursued oil companies for when birds drown in waste pits, or when power lines electrocute them.
But critics have claimed that due to the 'green' nature of the wind turbine technology, government officials are reluctant to pursue those responsible. According to Redding.com, the administration has never fined or prosecuted a wind-energy company, "even those that flout the law repeatedly".
The Wildlife Society Bulletin claims that more than half a million birds are killed by America's wind farms each year, including hawks, falcons and eagles. The study, published in March, was a peer-reviewed report.
"It is the rationale that we have to get off of carbon, we have to get off of fossil fuels, that allows them to justify this," said Tom Dougherty, a long-time environmentalist who worked for nearly 20 years for the National Wildlife Federation in the West, until his retirement in 2008. "But at what cost? In this case, the cost is too high."
In 2010, BP was fined $100m for killing and harming birds during the Gulf Coast oil spill. Pacificorp paid over $10.5m a year prior for electrocuting 232 eagles along its power lines and at substations.
"What it boils down to is this: If you electrocute an eagle, that is bad, but if you chop it to pieces, that is OK," said Tim Eicher, a former U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service enforcement agent based in Cody, who helped prosecute the PacifiCorp power line case.
The Obama administration has even proposed a rule that would give wind-energy companies decades of shelter from prosecution for killing eagles. The regulation is currently under review at the White House.
The proposal would allow companies to apply for 30-year permits to kill a set number of bald or golden eagles. Previously, companies were only eligible for five-year permits.
The government said the longer permit was needed to "facilitate responsible development of renewable energy" while "continuing to protect eagles."
Under both the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, the death of a single bird without a permit is illegal, however an AP Impact briefing states that the Obama administration continues to overrule experts, and the wind-industry, which was part of the committee that drafted and edited guidelines on the matter, continues to get almost everything it wants.
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