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AP Video: Obama Wind Energy Agenda Leaves ‘Trail of Dead Eagles’

Obama Admin overrules own experts, gives wind energy pass on eagle killing

• May 14, 2013 10:17 am

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The wind energy industry kills as many as 573,000 birds and 83,000 eagles, hawks, and falcons each year with the tacit support of the Obama Administration the Associated Press reports.

Today's report from the AP indicates each death of the 83,000 "hunting birds" is a federal crime, however wind energy firms are spared fines and prosecution levied on other energy companies for similar violations:

The Obama administration has never fined or prosecuted a wind farm for killing eagles and other protected bird species, shielding the industry from liability and helping keep the scope of the deaths secret, an Associated Press investigation has found.

More than 573,000 birds are killed by the country's wind farms each year, including 83,000 hunting birds such as hawks, falcons and eagles, according to an estimate published in March in the peer-reviewed Wildlife Society Bulletin.

Each death is federal crime, a charge that the Obama administration has used to prosecute oil companies when birds drown in their waste pits, and power companies when birds are electrocuted by their power lines. No wind energy company has been prosecuted, even those that repeatedly flout the law.

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The large death toll at wind farms shows how the renewable energy rush comes with its own environmental consequences, trade-offs the Obama administration is willing to make in the name of cleaner energy.

[…]

When companies voluntarily report deaths, the Obama administration in many cases refuses to make the information public, saying it belongs to the energy companies or that revealing it would expose trade secrets or implicate ongoing enforcement investigations.

Nearly all the birds being killed are protected under federal environmental laws, which prosecutors have used to generate tens of millions of dollars in fines and settlements from businesses, including oil and gas companies, over the past five years.

"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, Wyo.

Despite the obvious inequity in treatment between wind energy and the fossil fuel industry, the Obama Administration has issued new guidelines designed to further accomodate the wind lobby:

But under the Obama administration's new guidelines, wind-energy companies don't face additional scrutiny until they have a "significant adverse impact" on wildlife or habitat.

That rare exception for one industry substantially weakened the government's ability to enforce the law and ignited controversy inside the Interior Department.

"U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service does not do this for the electric utility industry or other industries," Kevin Kritz, a government wildlife biologist in the Rocky Mountain region wrote in internal agency comments in September 2011. "Other industries will want to be judged on a similar standard."

The Obama administration, however, repeatedly overruled its own experts. In the end, the wind-energy industry, which was part of the committee that drafted and edited the guidelines, got almost everything it wanted.

Proposed federal regulations will increase protected bird killing permits for the renewable energy sector from the current 5 year to 30 year intervals.