Eagle victims of wind farms get justice
WASHINGTON — A major U.S. power company has pleaded guilty to killing eagles and other birds at two Wyoming wind farms and agreed to pay $1 million as part of the first enforcement of environmental laws protecting birds against wind energy facilities.
Until the settlement announced Friday with Duke Energy Corp. and its renewable energy arm, not a single wind energy company had been prosecuted for a death of an eagle or other protected bird — even though each death is a violation of federal law, unless a company has a federal permit. Not a single wind energy facility has obtained a permit.
The Charlotte-based company pleaded guilty to killing 14 eagles and 149 other birds at its Top of the World and Campbell Hill wind farms outside Casper, Wyo. All the deaths — which included golden eagles, hawks, blackbirds, wrens and sparrows — occurred from 2009 to 2013.
“Wind energy is not green if it is killing hundreds of thousands of birds,” said George Fenwick, president of the American Bird Conservancy, which supports properly sited wind farms. “The unfortunate reality is that the flagrant violations of the law seen in this case are widespread.”
There could be more enforcement. The Fish and Wildlife Service is investigating 18 bird-death cases involving wind-power facilities, and about a half-dozen have been referred to the Justice Department.
Wind farms are clusters of turbines as tall as 30-story buildings, with spinning rotors as wide as a passenger jet's wingspan. Though the blades appear to move slowly, they can reach speeds up to 170 mph at the tips, creating tornado-like vortices. Eagles are especially vulnerable because they don't look up as they scan the ground for food, failing to notice the blades until it's too late.
“No form of energy generation, or human activity for that matter, is completely free of impacts, and wind energy is no exception,” the American Wind Energy Association said in a statement.
The case against Duke Energy and Duke Energy Renewables Inc. was the first prosecuted under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act against a wind energy company.
The Obama administration has championed pollution-free wind power and used the same law against oil companies and power companies for drowning and electrocuting birds.
A study in September by federal biologists found that wind turbines killed at least 67 bald and golden eagles since 2008. Wyoming had the most eagle deaths. That did not include deaths at Altamont Pass, an area in northern California where wind farms kill an estimated 60 eagles a year.
An investigation in May by The Associated Press revealed dozens of eagle deaths from wind energy facilities, including at Duke's Top of the World farm, the deadliest for eagles of 15 such facilities that Duke operates nationwide.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Colorado clinic shooting suspect talked of baby parts, police say
- Police officer killed in Colorado Spring clinic rampage a co-pastor, figure skater
- Police union stands by Chicago officer charged with murdering teen
- Disability claim waits grow alongside swelling caseloads for judges
- Slow-moving, wintry storm packs punch in Plains, Midwest
- Investors buy shares in college students: Purdue University thinks it’s wave of future
- Pot doctors in medical marijuana states push boundaries with marketing
- Authorization for NSA dragnets of phone call data expires
- Federal $1.1 trillion spending bill loaded with policy deals
- Chicago retail district targeted by protesters
- Prof proposes museum of corruption in New York capital