American Elephants

Save the Birds, Kill the Wind Farms! by The Elephant's Child

For years, the wind industry has had a license to kill migratory birds and birds of prey like this magnificent  golden eagle.  Not an official license, but nobody was really paying attention. Now there are some serious organizations taking a hard look at bird deaths.  About 70 golden eagles are killed every year by turbines at California’s Altamont Pass.

Now some 77 organizations — led by the American Bird Conservancy, the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, the Endangered Species Coalition and many chapters of the Audubon Society — are petitioning the Fish and Wildlife  Service to tighten the rules for siting, permitting and operation of large-scale wind projects. It’s about time.

According to Robert Bryce, writing in the Wall Street Journal, over the past two decades, the federal government has prosecuted hundreds of cases against oil and gas producers and electricity producers for violating America’s wildlife protections laws: the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and Eagle Protection Act — some of America’s oldest wildlife protection laws.

Somehow the Wind industry has managed to escape notice even though references to wind farms as “Bird Cuisinarts” are common. Neither the Obama administration nor the Bush administration has ever been prosecuted in spite of vast examples of widespread bird kills by turbines.

Last June, the Los Angeles Times reported that about 70 golden eagles are being killed per year by the wind turbines at Altamont Pass, about 20 miles east of Oakland, Calif. A 2008 study funded by the Alameda County Community Development Agency estimated that about 2,400 raptors, including burrowing owls, American kestrels, and red-tailed hawks—as well as about 7,500 other birds, nearly all of which are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act—are being killed every year by the turbines at Altamont.

The Pine Tree facility is believed by the Fish and Wildlife Service to be killing 1,595 birds a year, or about 12 birds per megawatt of installed capacity each year.

Bats are also getting whacked. The Pennsylvania Game Commission estimates the wind turbines have killed more than 10,000 bats in 2010.

Environmental groups are getting involved and bringing suit, especially involving the siting of wind farms in locations they don’t like. There have been enormous consequences accompanying government subsidized wind farms.  Farmers did not expect the noise and wind shadow and despair of being able to use their homes. The bird slaughter is serious and has consequences all down the food chain. The absence of prosecution for projects which are clearly breaking the law suggests bribes and corruption.  There are always consequences.

Riding roughshod over everyone’s objections to build inefficient costly wind farms will have consequences as well — perhaps in the next election?

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