Quantcast

Feds Extend Permits to 30 Years for Wind Farms for Accidental Eagle Kills

Business

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

The rift between the wind power industry and wildlife advocates will likely grow as a result of an expanded federal permitting process for wind projects.

The U.S. Department of the Interior has announced that some wind energy companies will be granted 30-year permits that allow them to operate without worrying about punishment for killing bald and golden eagles. The federal Fish and Wildlife Service began issuing the permits in 2009, but they only lasted a maximum of five years, opening the office to criticism from industry members who said the permits should match the length of long-term investments.

Now, much of the criticism comes from those concerned about wildlife safety.

"Instead of balancing the need for conservation and renewable energy, Interior wrote the wind industry a blank check," National Audubon Society President David Yarnold said in a statement.

"It's outrageous that the government is sanctioning the killing of America's symbol, the bald eagle."

The revised Eagle Act allows the Fish and Wildlife Service to "authorize the programmatic take of eagles, which is take associated with, but not the purpose of, an otherwise lawful activity and does not have a long-term impact on the population," according to the Department of Interior. The term 'take' is defined as killing, injuring or disturbing.

“Renewable energy development is vitally important to our nation’s future, but it has to be done in the right way,” said secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. “The changes in this permitting program will help the renewable energy industry and others develop projects that can operate in the longer term, while ensuring bald and golden eagles continue to thrive for future generations.”

American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) vice president of public affairs Peter Kelley told the Los Angeles Times that the permits won't be granted without strict supervision.

"You have to document all of the different ways you'll preserve the eagles," he said. "You'll be checked on every five years. Even then, if more eagles are dying than you expected, you have to do more things or lose your permit."

AWEA's official statement on the ruling said it promotes eagle conservation, but some wildlife advocates aren't so sure about that. Michael Hutchins, national coordinator of the conservancy's wind energy campaign, says the revision essentially legislates the killing of bald and golden eagles.

Hutchins is also concerned with the revisions in light of the country's desire to be 20 percent powered by renewables by 2030 as well as President Barack Obama's recent demands that the federal government triple its renewable energy deployment. Hutchins worries that more wind farms means more bird deaths.

"The Obama administration has called for 20 percent of our energy to be generated by renewables by 2030. That's approximately 12 times the amount of power generated," Hutchins said. "If it's not done right, what kind of an impact is that going to have on birds and bats?"

AWEA says less than 2 percent of human-caused eagle fatalities are caused by "modern wind facilities."

Duke Energy was the first wind utility to ever face prosecution for the deaths of birds. The U.S. Department of Justice announced a $1 million settlement with the company in late November.

Visit EcoWatch’s RENEWABLES page for more related news on this topic.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) speaks during the North American Building Trades Unions Conference at the Washington Hilton April 10, 2019 in Washington, DC. Zach Gibson / Getty Images

Colorado senator and 2020 hopeful Michael Bennet introduced his plan to combat climate change Monday, in the first major policy rollout of his campaign. Bennet's plan calls for the establishment of a "Climate Bank," using $1 trillion in federal spending to "catalyze" $10 trillion in private spending for the U.S. to transition entirely to net-zero emissions by 2050.

Read More Show Less
Foto-Rabe / Pixabay

When Trump's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its replacement for the Obama-era Clean Power Plan in August 2018, its own estimates said the reduced regulations could lead to 1,400 early deaths a year from air pollution by 2030.

Now, the EPA wants to change the way it calculates the risks posed by particulate matter pollution, using a model that would lower the death toll from the new plan, The New York Times reported Monday. Five current or former EPA officials familiar with the plan told The Times that the new method would assume there is no significant health gain by lowering air pollution levels below the legal limit. However, many public health experts say that there is no safe level of particulate matter exposure, which has long been linked to heart and lung disease.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
A crate carrying one of the 33 lions rescued from circuses in Peru and Columbia is lifted onto the back of a lorry before being transported to a private reserve on April 30, 2016 in Johannesburg, South Africa. Dan Kitwood / Getty Images

By Andrea Germanos

Animal welfare advocates are praising soon-to-be introduced legislation in the U.S. that would ban the use of wild animals in traveling circuses.

Read More Show Less
A tornado Monday in Union City, Oklahoma. TicToc by Bloomberg / YouTube screenshot

Extreme weather spawned 18 tornadoes across five states Monday, USA Today reported. Tornadoes were reported in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri and Arizona, but were not as dangerous as forecasters had initially feared, the Associated Press reported.

Read More Show Less
A woman walks in front of her water-logged home in Sriwulan village, Sayung sub-district of Demak regency, Central Java, Indonesia on Feb. 2, 2018. Siswono Toyudho / Anadolu Agency /Getty Images

A new study has more than doubled the worst-case-scenario projection for sea level rise by the end of the century, BBC News reported Monday.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Matt Cardy / Stringer / Getty Images

The Guardian is changing the way it writes about environmental issues.

Read More Show Less
Blueberry yogurt bark. SEE D JAN / iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Lizzie Streit, MS, RDN, LD

Having nutritious snacks to eat during the workday can help you stay energized and productive.

Read More Show Less
A 2017 flood in Elk Grove, California. Florence Low / California Department of Water Resources

By Tara Lohan

It's been the wettest 12 months on record in the continental United States. Parts of the High Plains and Midwest are still reeling from deadly, destructive and expensive spring floods — some of which have lasted for three months.

Mounting bills from natural disasters like these have prompted renewed calls to reform the National Flood Insurance Program, which is managed by Federal Emergency Management Agency and is now $20 billion in debt.

Read More Show Less