For wind energy, eagle death permit extended

December 7, 2013 by  
Filed under Green Energy News

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Flying eagles behave like drivers texting on their cellphones; they don’t look up. As they scan below for food, they don’t notice the industrial turbine blades until it is too late.

No wind energy company has obtained permission authorizing the killing, injuring or harassment of eagles, although five-year permits have been available since 2009. That puts the companies at legal risk and discourages private investment in renewable energy.

It also doesn’t necessarily help eagles, since without a permit, companies are not required to take steps to reduce their impact on the birds or report when they kill them.

The new rule makes clear that revoking a permit — which could undermine investments and interest in wind power — is a last resort under the administration’s energy policy.

“We anticipate that implementing additional mitigation measures … will reduce the likelihood of amendments to, or revocation of, the permit,” the rule said.

Conservation groups, which have been aligned with the wind industry on other issues, said the decision by the Interior Department sanctioned the killing of an American icon.

“Instead of balancing the need for conservation and renewable energy, Interior wrote the wind industry a blank check,” said Audubon President and CEO David Yarnold in a statement. The group said it will challenge the decision.

The wind energy industry has said the change mirrors permits already in place for endangered species, which are more at risk than bald and golden eagles. Bald eagles were removed from the endangered species list in 2007 but are still protected under two federal laws.

The regulation published Friday was not subjected to a full environmental review because the administration classified it as an administrative change.

“The federal government didn’t study the impacts of this rule change even though the (law) requires it,” said Kelly Fuller, who formerly headed up the wind campaign at the American Bird Conservancy. “Instead, the feds have decided to break the law and use eagles as lab rats.”

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