A California wind farm is getting off the hook. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Thursday they have signed a death certificate for thousands of eagles as they will not prosecute this or other wind-farms if eagles are injured or die when they run into the giant turning blades.
This is the same Obama administration signed a stimulus bill which spent among other things $3.4 million for a tunnel to protect turtles by allowing them to cross under a highway in Tallahassee. Or spent $30 million for wetlands restoration spend in Nancy Pelosi's San Francisco area district to protect, among other things, the endangered salt marsh harvest mouse. But killing eagles is fine.
The Shiloh IV Wind Project LLC, 60 miles east of San Francisco, will receive a special permit allowing up to five golden eagles to be accidentally killed, harmed or disturbed over five years. Previously, such a violation could potentially draw criminal charges and discourage private investment in wind farms known for catching birds in their rotors.
Agency Director Daniel Ashe said the permit encourages development of renewable energy while requiring the wind company to take steps to protect eagles from turbines and power lines. The move will help California reach its goal of producing one-third of its energy from renewable sources by 2020, he said.
"We can't solve the problem of eagle mortality at wind farms overnight," Ashe said in a statement. "But this commonsense solution merits the support of all who advocate for the long-term conservation of eagles."
Under President Barack Obama, wind energy has exploded as a pollution-free energy source that can help reduce the greenhouse gases blamed for global warming. But it is not without opposition from wildlife advocates.
The American Bird Conservancy sued the Obama administration this month over the permit, arguing the government failed to evaluate the consequences and ensure it would not damage eagle populations.
The government has offered five-year permits since 2009 to wind companies, but none other has obtained one. The permits are not required, and federal prosecutors have only once filed criminal charges against a wind farm, in Wyoming.
The problem is (especially if you are an eagle) is even without the permits, the Obama administration pledges to do nothing. Last December the Obama administration said it will allow companies to kill or injure eagles without the fear of prosecution for up to thirty years.
Bald eagles nearly disappeared in the U.S. three decades ago due to habitat destruction, illegal hunting and the use of DDT insecticide. But government conservation efforts and the banning of DDT have helped bring populations back from the brink, and in 2007 the birds were removed from the federal list of threatened and endangered species. Golden eagles are still considered endangered in some states, including New York, but are not federally listed as such.
A recent study by federal and state scientists found that U.S. wind turbines could kill up to 1.4 million birds of all species per year by 2030 as the wind energy industry continues to expand.