Through thick, thin and the worst American recession since the 1930s, the Obama Administration has continued to lavish attention and money on the wind-power industry, a pillar of its carbon-free energy policy. Its attention to the legal ramifications of wind-power has been less intense.
It has become apparent that wind turbines are efficient killing machines, slicing and dicing up to 100,000 birds a year. Among the victims are bald and golden eagles, two species protected by federal statute.
A new study by government biologists concludes that wind farms in 10 states have killed at least 85 eagles since 1997, most between 2008 and 2012. Of the total, 79 were golden eagles, which are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The others killed were bald eagles, a violation of the Bald Eagle Protection Act.
The researchers, who published their findings earlier this month, said the totals are “substantially” underestimated, mainly because wind power companies voluntarily report deaths and only a fraction of the birds included in the scientists’ study were discovered by the companies.
Thanks to Altamont Pass, the alternative energy-friendly Bay Area may be the windmill bird-death capital of the world. It is estimated that more than 1,300 raptors and 70 eagles annually meet their demise in Altamont rotors as wide as a passenger jet’s wingspan that can rotate at speeds up to 170 mph.
The Sierra Club has called such operations “Cuisinarts of the air” and the Audobon Society teamed up with Californians for Renewable Energy in 2010 to get NextEra Energy Resources to replace some of its 5,000 turbines with more bird-friendly models.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said recently it is investigating 18 bird death cases involving wind-powered facilities, and has referred seven cases to the U.S. Justice Department. But the Obama Justice Department, quick to go after BP for the damage it did in the Gulf of Mexico, has never prosecuted a wind power company for killing eagles during almost five years in office.
Don’t hold your breath waiting for the first case to be filed.