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Editorial: With massive bird deaths, what price wind power?

Wind power is a cornerstone of President Barack Obama’s energy policy. He has strongly supported a $1 billion-a-year tax break for the industry, which has helped double the amount of wind power in his first four years in office. The intent is an admirable one: Wind power is a pollution-free energy that helps ease global warming.

But according to a disturbing Associated Press investigation, the effort has come at a high cost amid questionable administration practices in seeking more renewable energy.

The “green” energy that is wind power comes with a significant “not-so-green” downside: Wind power’s massive turbines kill thousands of birds every year, including many federally protected species, such as eagles.

While an argument can be made that this is the price to be paid for clean energy, it seems to us the Obama administration has crossed an acceptable line involving federal law to achieve its goals.

According to the AP report:

It’s a federal crime to kill these protected species and the administration comes down hard on the oil, gas and electric industries for killing these birds, but has never fined or prosecuted a wind-power company for the same offenses.

The administration is shielding the industry from liability and helping keep the scope of the bird deaths secret.

The administration is allowing the wind industry to kill protected species with impunity and conceal the environmental consequences of sprawling wind farms.

The country’s wind farms kill more than 573,000 birds each year, including 83,000 hunting birds such as hawks, falcons and eagles. Yet wind power companies aren’t required to disclose how many birds they kill.

And when they do report such deaths, the administration often won’t make the information public.

Nearly all the birds being killed are protected under federal environmental laws, which prosecutors have used to generate tens of millions of dollars in fines and settlements from other energy businesses, including oil and gas companies, over the past five years.

∎ The administration has even proposed a rule that would give wind-energy companies potentially decades of shelter from prosecution for killing eagles. The proposal, made at the urging of the wind-energy industry, would allow companies to apply for 30-year permits to kill a set number of bald or golden eagles. Previously, companies were only eligible for five-year permits.

The administration says this is to give financial security to the companies, claiming investors are not likely to finance an industry that’s violating the law.

The logic may be impeccable, but sometimes logic must be overruled by common sense.

It’s clear to us that the Obama administration is willing to make the trade-off in the name of cleaner energy. But we don’t believe energy policy should ignore environmental laws.

As the saying goes, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

There has to be a better approach than to chalk up the bird losses as inevitable. The administration could require companies to build more farms where there are fewer birds. Use tax incentives to accomplish this task. Enforce the federal species law.

The administration has to get companies to act before they build their 30-story-high turbines.

After the turbines are running, there is no turning back.

Legacy Comments4

Cats and cars kill many more birds than wind turbines. in 2001 in Denmark there were 1,000,000 bird deaths by car and 55,000,000 by cats to 30,000 by wind turbines. And colllisions with windows kill about the same amount as cats. Oh yes, and remember, for every megawatt hour of electricity a wind turbine generates, roughly one less megawatt hour of fossil fuel-fired electricity is needed. Put another way, if anyone is worried about wind turbine bird kills they're not especially worried about species destruction courtesy of climate change.

Here is the reality behind this noble “green” cause. Wind energy is a business with a product to sell. In order to sell this product it has to be promoted. In doing so it has relied upon a very deceptive game plan. Here is a look at some of these tactics: (1)The industry is saturated with rigged studies, (2) Wind energy is supported by agency collusion, (3) wind energy has created a world wide genocide of bats and birds but hidden this impact by rigging studies and avoiding real studies, (4) wind turbines will cause the extinction of rare species but it has never been revealed to the public, (5 ) wind energy destroys property values from industrial squalor but this also has been hiddenwith rigged appraisals. (6) wind creates the permanent destruction of scenic view sheds, habitats and fragments ecosystems, (9) wind turbines cause personal agony for close inhabitants and the industry also hides this with their rigged studies, (10) wind is robbing taxpayers, creating huge debt, and driving up energy costs, (11) wind projects have a mortality footprint of thousands of miles for all migrating bird and bat species, but people like me had to disclose this fact, (12) wind energy is supported by media manipulation, and (13) wind is being sold to Americans by industry mouthpieces, our trusted political leaders and conservation groups. All of this unaccountability has created profits in the billions and an industry that exudes a disgusting arrogance

The eagle kill numbers given out in the AP report are grossly under reported and they are actually much worse. If they have reported 14 deaths at seven facilities in California, five each in New Mexico and Oregon, one in Washington State and another in Nevada, then the real toll is far greater because most of the mortally wounded travel great distances and are never found. With voluntary regulations and no accountability, the industry routinely lies or gives half truths about their hidden mortality impact. Even the number of golden eagles killed at Altamont, are estimated many times over the actual body count. At Altamont over a 5 year period 54 golden eagle carcasses were collected (10.8 per year) but the death toll to golden eagles was estimated to be 75 -116 golden eagles per year. This is 7 to 10 times as many as the actual body count. There is a huge difference between the numbers of eagles "found dead" or "reported" and the actual death rate to this species. The industry and FWS know exactly what I am talking about and this is just one example of how the public is being lied to. If they have reported 14 dead eagles at those seven locations then at least a 100 eagles have been slaughtered at these sites. This is why Editorials like this need to be in every newspaper every day. The wind industry is wiping out our bird populations and agencies entrusted to protect these species are in on it.

In my town officials were preparing to construct a singe wind turbine adjacent to Audubon land with no dissent from Audubon officials at all. At the highest levels of these organizations there is a blindness to the adverse impacts from wind power to those creatures they typically are so very protective of? Thankfully for economic reasons the turbine plan was shelved in favor of a more benign renewable energy source. Although I do appreciate that this paper has voiced caution and is questioning the presumption that wind energy should get a pass on breaking US environmental laws, BUT I do not understand why there is not a similar outcry over the outrageous impacts to both private property rights and to the stated right of Mass citizens to clean air (think noise pollution). We have thousands of complaints due to excessive and invasive noise here in our state. We have residents abandoning their homes as a result of the public health emergency being created by the noise impacts (both audible and low frequency impacts) to residents of our state that live adjacent to these industrial scale wind turbines. We have 3 installations that have been found to be out of compliance with Massachusetts noise regulations, a clear sign that the complaints from residents are valid. Sleep deprivation and disruption is a very serious problem, and leads to a variety of human health issues. Yet, where is the editorial expressing support for the humans involved in this equation?

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