Wildlife conservationists are livid at the Obama administration’s approval of a new rule that extends wind farms leases up to 30 years. On Friday, wildlife protection groups decried the new regulation as a “stunningly bad move” that gives wind power companies the ability to kill eagles and other birds for the next 30 years.
The Wildlife Society Bulletin approximates that 573,000 birds and 888,000 bats are killed by flying into wind turbines every year. National Audubon Society President David Yarnold expressed his anger over the Obama administration’s new rule: “It’s outrageous that the government is sanctioning the killing of America’s symbol, the bald eagle.”
Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, however, argues that the new regulation is beneficial to wildlife and renewable energy development: “The changes in this permitting program will help the renewable energy industry and others develop projects that can operate in the longer term, while ensuring bald and golden eagles continue to thrive for generations.”
Moreover, Peter Kelley, VP of Public Affairs for the American Wind Energy Association, says that the new rule provides that wind energy companies must have accompanying wildlife protection programs to ensure more eagles are not dying than expected. Kelley explained that the Dept. of Interior demands they “document all of the different ways you’ll preserve the eagles,” and that the companies will be reviewed every five years for compliance. Kelley also contends the real number one threat to eagles and wildlife is climate change.
But Michael Hutchins, national coordinator of the American Bird Conservancy, says that the five year reviews are “almost exclusively on self-reporting by for-profit companies to tell them whether or not they’ve killed threatened or endangered species.” Hutchins thinks that profit making energy companies may need more than a self monitoring safeguard: “President Reagan used to say, ‘trust, but verify.’ … This ruling sets up a system of permitting that allows, for the first time, the legal killing of bald and golden eagles. We think it’s a bad idea.”
Hutchins added, “You can’t call it green if it’s killing hundreds of thousands of birds and bats annually and if it’s killing large numbers of protected eagles.”