Eagles not protected from wind turbines

Wind farms will get a 30-year license for the accidental death of eagles from wind turbines as a response of the US Federal government to the growth of clean energy.

Wind power is a clean and green energy, and its growth and development is being pushed to reduce global warming. According to a Federal study, however, wind turbines have caused the death of at least 67 eagles since 2008. In an effort to invite investors and boost the growth of the wind power industry, the government of President Obama announced that it will not penalize some wind power operators for eagle death or injuries in the next 30 years. This is in response to the request of the wind energy industry of providing legal protection for wind farms and other similar projects for the accidental killing of eagles for extent of their lifespan.

With this protection also comes the commitment of wind farm companies to adopt extra safety measures if and when they injure or kill more eagles than their estimation or if new information will surface suggesting that more eagles are being affected. There will a review and renewal of the permit after every 5 years, and companies are required to submit a report on the number of eagle deaths. According to the Director of Sitting Policy of the American Wind energy Association, John Anderson, the permit is not a permit to kill eagles, but is about conservation.

Wind farms are a collection of wind turbines almost as high as 30-story buildings. These wind turbines have whirling blades with a span akin to a jet’s wingspan spinning at a speed reaching 170 mph at the ends that produce a cyclone-like whirlwind. And eagles fly unmindful of the danger posed by the wind turbines as they search for food, until it’s too late for them to avoid it.

Before this new policy, no wind farm has obtained authorization to harass, injure or kill eagles, even though since 2009 there was already a five-year license available. Such a situation deters investment for renewable energy and puts wind farms in legal jeopardy. Even eagles were also at a disadvantage since the absence of a permit or license also meant that reducing the danger to eagles and reporting of their deaths are also not mandatory.

This policy clarifies that a revocation of the permit is the last ditch effort of the government since doing so could undercut interest and investments to wind power.

Conservation groups, however, protest such a policy since it is like sanctioning the slaughter of an American idol. It must be remembered that these conservation groups have been on the same side of the wind industry on other issues. According to David Yarnold, CEO and president of the National Audubon Society, they will be challenging this policy since to them the government wrote the wind industry a blank check, instead of offering a balance to renewable energy and conservation needs. The policy was not subjected to an inclusive environmental review since the government categorized it as an administrative change.

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