Entries in wind turbine bird kills (2)

3/15/12 Bird and bat killers called out: Environmental groups put the heat on wind developers and the US Fish and Wildlife service


By Robert Bryce,

Source www.huffingtonpost.com 

March 15, 2012 

In 2009, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimated that the domestic wind turbines are killing about 440,000 birds per year. Since then, the wind industry has been riding a rapid growth spurt.

But that growth has slowed dramatically due to a tsunami of cheap natural gas and hefty taxpayer subsidies. Even worse: that cheap gas looks like it will last for many years, and Congress has, so far, been unwilling to extend the 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour subsidy for wind operators that expires at the end of this year.

And now, the wind industry is facing yet another big challenge: increasing resistance from environmental groups who are concerned about the effect that unrestrained construction of wind turbines is having on birds and bats. Ninety environmental groups, led by the American Bird Conservancy, have signed onto the “bird-smart wind petition” which has been submitted to the Fish and Wildlife Service.

It’s about time. Over the past two decades, the federal government has prosecuted hundreds of cases against oil and gas producers and electricity producers for violating some of America’s oldest wildlife-protection laws: the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and Eagle Protection Act. But the Obama administration — like the Bush administration before it — has never prosecuted the wind industry despite myriad examples of widespread, unpermitted bird kills by turbines. A violation of either law can result in a fine of $250,000 and/or imprisonment for two years.

But amidst all the hoopla about “clean energy” the wind industry is being allowed to continue its illegal slaughter of some of America’s most precious wildlife. Even more perverse: taxpayers are subsidizing that slaughter.

Last June, Louis Sahagun, a reporter with the Los Angeles Times, reported that about 70 golden eagles per year are being killed by the wind turbines at Altamont Pass, located about 20 miles east of Oakland. A 2008 study funded by the Alameda County Community Development Agency estimated that about 2,400 raptors, including burrowing owls, American kestrels, and red-tailed hawks — as well as about 7,500 other birds, nearly all of which are protected under the Migratory Bird Treat Act — are being killed every year by the turbines at Altamont.

A pernicious double standard is at work here and it riles Eric Glitzenstein, a Washington, D.C.-based lawyer who wrote the petition to the Fish and Wildlife Service for the American Bird Conservancy. He told me, “It’s absolutely clear that there’s been a mandate from the top” echelons of the federal government not to prosecute the wind industry for violating wildlife laws.

Glitzenstein comes to this issue from the left. Before forming his own law firm, he worked for Public Citizen, an organization created by Ralph Nader. But when it comes to wind energy, “Many environmental groups have been claiming that too few people are paying attention to the science of climate change, but some of those same groups are ignoring the science that shows wind energy’s negative impacts on bird and bat populations.”

That willful ignorance may be ending. The Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club, and Defenders of Wildlife recently filed a lawsuit against officials in Kern County, California, in an effort to block the construction of two proposed wind projects — North Sky River and Jawbone — due to concerns about their impact on local bird populations. The groups oppose the projects because of their proximity to the deadly Pine Tree facility, which the Fish and Wildlife Service believes is killing 1,595 birds, or about 12 birds per megawatt of installed capacity, per year.

The only time a public entity has pressured the wind industry for killing birds occurred in 2010, when California brokered a $2.5 million settlement with NextEra Energy Resources for bird kills at Altamont. The lawyer on that case: former attorney general and current Gov. Jerry Brown, who’s now pushing the Golden State to get 33 percent of its electricity from renewables by 2020.

Despite the toll that wind turbines are taking on wildlife, the wind industry wants to keep its get-out-of-jail-free card. Last May, the Fish and Wildlife Service proposed new guidelines for wind turbine installations. But the American Wind Energy Association quickly panned the proposed rules as “unworkable.”

Billions of dollars are at stake. And the wind industry is eager to downplay the problem of bird and bat kills. But the issue, which clearly has the Obama administration in a tight spot, is not going away. The Sierra Club now favors mandatory rules for wind turbine siting.

And while wildlife protection is essential, the broader issue of equitable treatment under the law may be more important. For years, says Glitzenstein, the Interior Department has been telling the wind industry: “‘No matter what you do, you need not worry about being prosecuted.’ To me, that’s appalling public policy.”

Disclosure: Robert Bryce is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, which over the past ten years, has obtained about 2.5 percent of its budget from the hydrocarbon sector.

1/20/12 Getting away with murder: All that's standing between wind developers and their obscene profits is that stupid law that protects endangered bald and golden eagles. 

From Minnesota


 by Josephine Marcotty

Via Star Tribune, www.startribune.com

January 20 2012 

A controversial wind farm proposed near Red Wing plans to ask for federal permission to legally kill eagles, making it one of the first in the nation to participate in a new federal strategy aimed at managing the often-lethal conflict between birds and turbine blades.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials say they urged the developers of AWA Goodhue Wind to seek the new permit because the deaths of an unknown number of eagles and endangered golden eagles will be inevitable once the 50-turbine project is up and running.

The process for such “incidental take” permits was devised in 2009 as a compromise between the demand for clean energy from the growing number of wind farms and the rising concern over the estimated hundreds of thousands of birds and bats that they kill every year.

The 18.75-square-mile site in Goodhue County is home to a number of nesting eagles, and many more migrate through the area every year. There also have been sightings of two rare and endangered golden eagles, which come down from Canada to winter along the Mississippi River bluffs in southeastern Minnesota.

To get a permit, the company must provide a detailed plan designed to minimize the impact on protected species, project how many are likely to be killed each year, and keep track of the outcome.

The plan would have to be approved by the federal wildlife agency, giving it some future influence over the design and operation of the project, which is now under the jurisdiction of the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC).

“There are a lot of issues,” said Mags Rheude, a wildlife biologist with the Minnesota office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “We’d have to come to an agreement.”

The developer, AWA Goodhue Wind, stated its intent to file for the federal permit in filings with the PUC, but did not respond to requests for comment.

Without the permit, the company could be subject to federal prosecution if the project results in the destruction of the birds or their nests.

In recent years, there have been four documented deaths and one injury to bald eagles from North American wind farms, and many more among golden eagles at one wind farm built along their migration path in California, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service.

So far, only one wind project, the West Butte Power Project in Oregon, has submitted a request for such a permit, but more are expected.

“There are a fair amount of wind farms lined up – hesitantly,” Rheude said. “I think there are a lot of people watching to see how the process will go.”

Regulators have doubts

In the meantime, however, federal and state wildlife officials say they have significant concerns about AWA Goodhue Wind’s wildlife protection plan, which will go before the PUC on Feb. 2. The commission’s decision is key in determining when and if construction starts on the locally contentious project, which has been in the works for more than two years.

For example, in its filings with the PUC, the company says it has been unable to accurately count eagles or predict how many might be harmed, because local opponents are engaged in an artificial feeding campaign to attract birds to the area.

But, in their sharpest critique, both the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the Fish and Wildlife Service said in their filings that no such campaign has been verified by state investigators. The project, they noted, is located in an agricultural area, where livestock and wild animal carcasses are common.

“Due to the large number of eagles already present in the area, it is likely eagles will discover carcasses quickly,” federal officials said. “Eagles feeding on carcasses will likely be a long-term issue for AWA Wind.”

Both the state and federal agencies also expressed concern about the company’s plan to remove woods and other habitat to keep birds and other wildlife away from the turbines. That would only serve to harm other species, they said.

They also raised questions about the company’s plans to measure the project’s impact on bats, which are becoming as great a concern among conservationists as birds. New research is finding that some species of bats are particularly susceptible to wind turbines, because even if they manage to avoid the turbines, the pressure changes that occur as the blades move through air can cause fatal internal bleeding.

“In the next few years there may be more endangered species on the site,” Rheude said.