For most of us little people, killing a Bald Eagle is major
offense, punishable by a fine of up to $250,000 and two years in prison. But
the rules are different if you kill them in the same of renewable energy.
As Robert Bryce recently noted in the Wall Street Journal,
the government has effectively turned a blind eye to bird killing by the wind
industry. And it is about to give one wind farm a license to kill eagles… for
On Jan. 15, the Fish
and Wildlife Service determined that the New Era Wind Farm—a proposed project
near Red Wing, Minn.—might kill as many as 14 bald eagles per year. Despite
that toll, the agency said the developer of the 48-turbine wind farm could go ahead
and apply for an eagle-kill permit. If granted, it could be the first project
to get one. At least one other wind-energy concern, Oregon's West Butte Wind
Project, also has applied for an incidental-take permit, and others are sure to
Bryce notes that the feds have never brought a case against
a wind farm under either the Migratory Treaty Act or the Bald an Golden Eagle
Protection Act, despite estimates that the turbines kill around 440,000 birds
Other industries – lacking the green energy dispensation –
are handled very differently. While the wind industry gets a pass, he notes,
the feds have been aggressive when it comes to the oil and gas industry.
In 2011, the Fish and
Wildlife Service filed criminal indictments against three drillers who were
operating in North Dakota's Bakken field. One of those companies, Continental
Resources, was indicted for killing a single bird (a Say's Phoebe) that is
protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
The double standard is not lost on observers.
An eagle-kill permit
"infuriates me," says Daniel Stussy, who owns a 20-acre farm on the
border of the proposed New Era Wind Farm in Minnesota. "As a hunter, if I
mistook the bald eagle for a Canada goose, a big fine would be the least of my
worries. I couldn't even go to town for coffee because I'd be so ashamed."