The Obama administration is so in the tank for wind energy, they announced yesterday they are revising a federal rule that will now allow wind companies who operate high-speed turbines to “kill or injure up to 4,200 bald eagles a year without penalty.” That’s nearly four times the current legal limit. This new rule would be good for up to three decades, even if it means “killing or injuring thousands of federally protected bald and golden eagles.”
Bald eagles are both the national bird and the national animal of the U.S. and was on the brink of extinction in the late 20th century. In 1995, the bird was removed from the government’s list of endangered species in 1995 and placed on the list of threatened species. In 2007, it was removed from the Endangered and Threatened Wildlife list.
With these new revisions, companies can kill golden eagles without fear of government backlash if precautions are taken to “minimize death or injuries,” such as by “retrofitting power poles to reduce the risk of electrocution.” About 500 bald eagles are killed a year from wind turbines, which literally suck the birds in like a vacuum.
According to Dan Ashe, a Fish and Wildlife service director, the proposal will “provide a path forward” to prevent eagle population loss while speeding up the development of wind turbines intended to ease “global warming.” All of this is part of President Obama’s climate change legacy and clean energy push. Ashe also said the nearly 170-page proposal would protect eagles and “help the country reduce its reliance on fossil fuels” through pollution-free energy sources.
Ashe told the Associated Press that the plan is “a great tool to work with to further conservation of two iconic species.” The proposal also sets goals for eagle management, bird population monitoring, and a basic framework and permitting system that fits within the agency’s eagle management, Ashe added.
Recently, solar arrays have come under fire for causing the deaths of thousands of birds who are attracted to the shimmering lights. When a bird gets too close, the intense heat of the solar panels vaporize the bird almost instantly. The Ivanpah solar energy farm in California killed 3,500 birds in the first year of its operation. Birds getting fried is not isolated to just this one solar farm, as biologists have seen birds getting fried at other facilities.
Typical wind farms or wind parks are a group of wind turbines in the same location that reach about 260 feet (a 30-story building) tall, with spinning rotors as wide as a passenger jet’s wingspan (about 130 feet). A large wind farm can consist of several hundred individual wind turbines and cover hundreds of square miles, with the land below used for farming and feeding livestock. Since wind farms require a constant and substantial wind, many are placed in areas near mountain passes, a favorite area for eagles.
Blades can reach speeds of up to 170 mph at the tips, which create powerful vortexes. Currently, Ashe speculates that around “500 golden eagles a year are killed by wind turbines, power lines, buildings, cars and trucks.” He noted that thousands more are “killed by gunshots and poisonings.” With these new revisions, up to 4,200 can now be killed each year for every wind farm in the United States.