NOVEMBER 22, 2013
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UTILITY COMPANY SENTENCED IN WYOMING FOR KILLING PROTECTED BIRDS AT WIND PROJECTS
WASHINGTON – Duke Energy Renewables Inc., a subsidiary of Duke Energy Corp., based in Charlotte, N.C., pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Wyoming today to violating the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) in connection with the deaths of protected birds, including golden eagles, at two of the company’s wind projects in Wyoming. This case represents the first ever criminal enforcement of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act for unpermitted avian takings at wind projects.
December 6, 2013
In a long-anticipated move that has prompted howls of outrage from conservation groups, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has announced it will be extending the maximum length of the permits it’s granting wind energy facility operators to injure or kill bald and golden eagles.
The permits, technically known as take permits under the federal Bald And Golden Eagle Protection Act (BGEPA), will be extended to last up to 30 years from the current maximum of five years, according to a new rule that will be published Monday in the Federal Register.
The change in the tenure of eagle take permits, which has been in the works for more than a year, marks an historic reversal of USFWS policy in its enforcement of the nation’s eagle protection laws — and some normally moderate environmental groups are condemning it in no uncertain terms.
BOULEVARD, Calif. – A bizarre incident has led to the death of a golden eagle in the Boulevard area.
The death was not caused by wind turbines, but some say it could be a game changer for the future of local wind projects.
Sam Mckernan drove upon the scene along state Route 94 Wednesday afternoon.
“It was just overwhelming. I was crying,” said Mckernan.
A golden eagle was wedged in the rearview mirror of a semi-truck.
Mckernan called her friend Frannie Heath, who came out to the scene.
10News was told the driver described it this way.
“As they were both going westbound, he got caught between the semi-truck’s passenger side and mirror. It ripped off his poor wing and apparently broke his leg at the same time,” said Heath.
An animal services officer was called out and euthanized the eagle.
The golden eagle is not endangered, but it is federally protected and a major focus when it comes to approving wind energy projects.
Donna Tisdale, who chairs the Boulevard planning group, says proposals for many projects, including one recent one, contend there is little to no presence of golden eagles in the Boulevard area and the Campo Indian Reservation.
“Residents have testified and submitted declarations that they had witnessed eagles here within the reservation boundaries, but they say we’re not experts … that we don’t know what golden eagles are,” said Tisdale.
Tisdale says sadly, this death is good evidence that the eagles are in the area and putting up more turbines in the area is a definite risk.
It is evidence that could be put to the test soon, as a handful of wind projects go up for approval. Others face court challenges.
On an unrelated about birds and turbines – for the first time, a company earlier this week pleaded guilty to killing golden eagles.
It is a case from Wyoming involving Duke Energy Renewables. That company must pay a million dollar fine as punishment.
by Chris Clarke | ReWire | November 26, 2013 | www.kcet.org
The discovery last week of a dead hawk in the hills between the Ocotillo Express Wind Facility and the Sunrise Powerlink has residents of the nearby town of Ocotillo concerned about how their local raptors are faring with more than 100 new wind turbines in their town.
The dead bird, which ReWire’s sources have preliminarily identified as a ferruginous hawk, was found by an Ocotillo resident over the weekend in a small wash off Shell Canyon Road north of the Imperial County hamlet, less than half a mile from the northern tier of the wind project’s 440-foot turbines.
Though the photographs ReWire has obtained do not show conclusive photographic evidence of a cause of death. But finding an individual of North America’s largest hawk species dead of unexplained causes more than a half mile from a wind turbine raises questions how wind energy facility operators monitor wildlife mortalities.
According to Ocotillo resident Jim Pelley, an acquaintance discovered the bird and took Pelley to the site to document it. The two took photos and recorded GPS information, left the bird on site and alerted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to their find.
ReWire obtained photos of the hawk from Pelley. Though the photo we’ve published below is not particularly gruesome, we’ve blurred it out for the sake of sensitive readers.
The condition of the remains confounded ReWire’s attempts at identification, so we shared the photo with Bay Area-based naturalists Ron Sullivan and Joe Eaton. They replied that they were fairly confident the body belonged to a ferruginous hawk, Buteo regalis, a very large hawk that primarily feeds on small mammals.
Though its numbers have been slowly increasing across most of California since a nadir in the 20th Century, the ferruginous hawk is still a California Species of Special Concern, and like many other birds is protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
The bird’s carcass shows obvious signs that scavenging animals consumed part of it, perhaps carrying it to the location in which it was found. That location was well outside the usual distance from turbine pylons within which biologists in the employ of wind companies generally conduct surveys for injured or killed birds. Wind companies usually contend that birds injured by blade strike generally fall to the ground within an area not much farther from the pylons than the length of the turbines blades.
But assuming that this bird:
- was indeed a ferruginous hawk, whose adults weigh from two to four and a half pounds, and
- was indeed injured or killed by one of the project’s blades,
… then the fact that it was found about half a mile from the nearest turbine would suggest that a typical mortality survey radius of 50 meters from the nearest turbine pole might be far too small.
That’s true even if a coyote did pick this hawk up from underneath a turbine tower and carried it off for a leisurely snack.
November 16, 2013
A message from Digby, Nova Scotia.
From: Debi VanTassel
Date: Fri, Nov 15, 2013
Subject: Ocean Breeze Emu Farm-closing
by Scott Streater
Environment & Energy Sept 27, 2013
“Put simply, wind farms are causing considerable damage to nature’s balance, for no benefit whatsoever to society. Indeed, no country in the world has reduced its carbon footprint thanks to them…. It is high time to call a moratorium on wind farms, and examine the situation after ditching our blinkers.”
Wind turbines kill birds and bats, we all know that, but the billion-dollar question is: how many? I say “billion” because subsidies to the wind industry run into billions of dollars per year in the United States alone, and chances are the public would not support such expenditures if they found out that these machines were driving iconic, useful or beautiful species into extinction. It is therefore important to find out the extent of the mortality caused by their rotor blades and high tension power lines.
In a paper presented in 2009 at the Fourth International Partners in Flight Conference, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Biologist Dr. Albert M. Manville wrote: “While the wind industry currently estimates that turbines kill 58 000 birds per year in the U.S. … the Service estimates annual mortality at 440 000 birds.” (1) This created quite a stir, and the wind industry tried hard to fight this estimate ever since.
Energy giant SSE is being told its proposed huge wind farm at Strathy would kill and drive away golden eagles and other rare birds and despoil an area at the heart of the flow country of Caithness and Sutherland.
The message was spelled out loud and clear at a public meeting called by the company to discuss the potential impact its 47-turbine development earmarked for a forested area to the south of the village would have on the natural environment.
As reported in the Courier, the RSPB is objecting to the plans because of concern about the potential toll on nationally and internationally important concentrations of birds like golden eagles, red-throated divers and greenshanks. The nature body also fears the turbines would be bad news for the surrounding tract of blanket bog, which is subject to international conservation designations.
The Wolfe Island Studies
In early 2011, the company that owns and operates the 86 wind turbines on Wolfe Island released its first mortality study. After making “adjustments,” the study estimated that the turbines killed 602 birds and 1,270 bats between July 1 and December 31, 2009; an additional 549 birds and 450 bats were killed between January 1 and June 30, 2010. The total fatality toll for the twelve months was estimated to be 1,141 birds, 24 raptors, and 1,720 bats.
The huge number of fatalities generated extensive negative publicity around the world, and the Wolfe Island wind installation quickly became known as Canada’s deadliest energy facility. In response to this criticism’ and under the direction of the country’s Ministry of Natural Resources, new “management” procedures were adopted that would supposedly reduce these turbine impacts. Follow-up studies “indicated” that the new procedures for were having a positive impact and Wolfe Island wind turbine mortality was being reduced.
I recently was involved in a brief but interesting mini-debate with a colleague over energy production and the environment. Not being an award-winning debater, I took the path of least resistance and came down on both sides of the argument.
Read Mike Jones’ original article
in Tulsa World
I have written before urging that opposing elements on various issues such as climate change or immigration reform find a common ground. I also have asked that our leaders listen more to the voices of the middle rather than the extremes on each end. Success in either endeavor has been, well, limited.
Nevertheless, I believe that there is a middle ground in the discussion of protecting our environment and keeping the lights on and our vehicles running.