Wind-power companies won't face federal prosecution in eagle deaths
By The Associated Press
Published: Friday, Dec. 6, 2013, 9:06 p.m.
WASHINGTON — Under pressure from the wind-power industry, the Obama administration said Friday it will allow companies to kill or injure eagles without the fear of prosecution for up to three decades.
The rule is designed to address environmental consequences that stand in the way of the nation's wind energy rush: the dozens of bald and golden eagles being killed each year by the giant, spinning blades of wind turbines.
An investigation by The Associated Press earlier this year documented the illegal killing of eagles around wind farms, the Obama administration's reluctance to prosecute such cases and its willingness to help keep the scope of the eagle deaths secret.
President Obama has championed the pollution-free energy, nearly doubling America's wind power in his first term as a way to tackle global warming.
But all energy has costs, and the administration has been forced to accept the not-so-green sides of green energy as a means to an end.
Another AP investigation recently showed that corn-based ethanol blended into the nation's gasoline has been more damaging to the environment than politicians promised and worse than the government acknowledges.
These examples highlight Obama's willingness to accept environmental trade-offs — pollution, loss of conservation land and the deaths of eagles — in hopes that green energy will help fight climate change.
The rule will provide legal protection for the lifespan of wind farms and other projects if companies obtain permits and make efforts to avoid killing protected birds.
Companies would have to take additional measures if they killed or injured more eagles than they had estimated they would, or if new information suggested that eagle populations were being affected. The permits would be reviewed every five years, and companies would have to submit reports of how many eagles they killed. Now, such reporting is voluntary, and the Interior Department refuses to release the information.
“This is not a program to kill eagles,” said John Anderson, the director of siting policy at the American Wind Energy Association. “This permit program is about conservation.”
But conservation groups, which have been aligned with the industry on other issues, said the decision by the Interior Department sanctions the killing of an American icon.
“Instead of balancing the need for conservation and renewable energy, Interior wrote the wind industry a blank check,” said Audubon President and CEO David Yarnold in a statement. The group said it would challenge the decision.
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 of up to 170 mph at the tips, creating tornado-like vortexes.
Flying eagles behave somewhat like drivers texting on cellphones; they don't look up. As they scan below for food, they don't notice the blades until it is too late.
Until now, no wind energy company has obtained permission authorizing the killing, injuring or harassment of eagles, although five-year permits have been available since 2009. That has put the companies at legal risk and has discouraged private investment in renewable energy.
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.
- Powerful quake shakes N. California; no injuries
- Scientists: Test West Coast for Fukushima radiation
- Climate contraptions get real consideration
- Climate contraptions get real consideration
- Daughter’s Facebook post costs father $80K
- Officer among 3 men killed in Ohio club shooting
- Americans riding public transit in record numbers
- 2 dozen injured as California school stage falls
- 273 cited in Ohio in year for texting, driving
- Toomey instrumental in derailing Justice nominee
- Sullivan case still relied on in libel claims