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Power Government United States

US Issues 30-Year Eagle-Killing Permits To Wind Industry 466

Posted by Soulskill
from the plans-for-eagle-bbq-restaurant-already-underway dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Lindsay Abrams reports at Salon that the Obama administration is offering wind farms 30 years of leeway to kill and harm bald and golden eagles. The new regulations, which were requested by the wind industry, will provide companies that seek a permit with legal protection, preventing them from having to pay penalties for eagle deaths (PDF). An investigation by the Associated Press earlier this year documented the illegal killing of eagles around wind farms, the Obama administration's reluctance to prosecute such cases and its willingness to help keep the scope of the eagle deaths secret. President Obama has championed the pollution-free energy, nearly doubling America's wind power in his first term as a way to tackle global warming. Scientists say wind farms in 10 states have killed at least 85 eagles since 1997, with most deaths occurring between 2008 and 2012, as the industry was greatly expanding. Most deaths — 79 — were golden eagles that struck wind turbines. However the scientists said their figure is likely to be 'substantially' underestimated, since companies report eagle deaths voluntarily and only a fraction of those included in their total were discovered during searches for dead birds by wind-energy companies. The National Audubon Society said it would challenge the decision."
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US Issues 30-Year Eagle-Killing Permits To Wind Industry

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  • by rueger (210566) on Sunday December 08, 2013 @02:17AM (#45631189) Homepage
    I'm as green as anyone, but lordy that was some one-sided summary Hugh.

    Can I at least ask for some other numbers, such as the number of bird kills resulting from pollutants dumped out by the big coal fired plants in Ohio?
    • by ExecutorElassus (1202245) on Sunday December 08, 2013 @02:27AM (#45631219)
      A not altogether unbiased source [eneweconomy.com.au] has a handy comparison of bird deaths between wind, nukes, and fossil fuels. This is the thing all this hoopla about bird deaths on wind farms conveniently overlooks: the number of wildlife deaths from other industries -- how many birds died in the Deepwater Horizon spill, by the way? -- vastly outpaces those from windmills.

      Yes, it's sad, and I would like to see them mitigated. But it's the same idiocy that makes people compare three high-speed collisions in Tesla Model S fires to the tens of thousands of fires that happen every year in ICEs with nary a peep.
    • by bob_super (3391281) on Sunday December 08, 2013 @03:18AM (#45631347)

      Can I get a thirty-year exemption on side-effects of killing birds with my windshield?

      I don't often go over the 100+ mph that the tip of windmills can attain, but I still find that some birds do deserve it when natural selection happens to them. Like my car, a windmill isn't exactly quiet nor hard to spot.

      • All for wind power...but create a federal mandate where an eagle repellant has to be developed in a specific period.

        They shouldn't just get a free pass to kill endangered species any more than big oil etc

        • by sumdumass (711423) on Sunday December 08, 2013 @05:40AM (#45631655) Journal

          All they should have to do is paint the blades a color that significantly contrasts the background and place a few streamers on the tips. The spinning blades will appear as a wall when moving fast and a predator when moving slow. Perhaps stripes could make the slow moving blades appear to be more of a threat.

          Eagles are off the endangered species lists now. But they are still protected under the migratory bird treaty or something like that.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Anonymous Coward

            The blades which are often 125 feet long, do not appear as a solid wall or even as a fast moving thing. They are really quite a surprise to a bird who doesn't anticipate a fast moving target approaching at 90 mph coming from 2:30 position. These blades are stunningly narrow and small in that aspect. It is a deadly swat and done with about 1 second to realize that damage is about to happen. These wind turbines are essentially clear air to the birds and worse yet the approaching low pressure wave probably

        • BP killed the gulf of Mexico and they're still in business?
          • by thegarbz (1787294) on Sunday December 08, 2013 @06:29AM (#45631799)

            BP has spent in excess of $20bn to aid cleanup, their executive team got axed, their share price is valued below the sum total value of the company's assets and they are still in the process of one lawsuit after another.

            Sure sounds like business as usual to me.

            • Sure sounds like business as usual to me.

              Well, for BP, it pretty much is. Macando was just the most visible of their recent screwups. They've had lots of practice elsewhere.

      • by Cochonou (576531) on Sunday December 08, 2013 @07:14AM (#45631927) Homepage
        There are also many people getting run over by cars which were neither quiet nor hard to spot. Natural selection for them too ?
    • Can I at least ask for some other numbers, such as the number of bird kills resulting from pollutants dumped out by the big coal fired plants in Ohio?

      So, one wrong makes another OK? That there are other preventable sources of eagle kills, it's OK for wind?

    • by nospam007 (722110) *

      "Can I at least ask for some other numbers, such as the number of bird kills resulting from pollutants dumped out by the big coal fired plants in Ohio?"

      Every cat kills as many birds as a handful of wind generators per year, albeit eagles are a minority among those killed.

    • Zero.

      In this case we're talking about birds killed directly by the blades. So... how many bald eagles are running into coal buildings and killing themselves INSIDE generators... about none.

      As to how many are killed by the soot released from the power plants?... Impossible to calculate.

      Could be zero too... depending on density and intensity of emissions. In china... maybe they kill a lot of birds. In the US?... Probably not many if any.

      be realistic and be rational or be treated as neither.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by ultranova (717540)

      I'm as green as anyone, but lordy that was some one-sided summary Hugh.

      Can I at least ask for some other numbers, such as the number of bird kills resulting from pollutants dumped out by the big coal fired plants in Ohio?

      Your question makes your assertion incorrect: a typical "green" person doesn't think in terms of "best alternative", but simply opposes whatever is being done since it will inevitably have some consequences. Can't build coal plants, they pollute; can't build nuclear, it leaves radiactive w

    • by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Sunday December 08, 2013 @06:38AM (#45631831)

      Can I at least ask for some other numbers, such as the number of bird kills resulting from pollutants dumped out by the big coal fired plants in Ohio?

      The two greatest killers of birds in the US are feral cats and window panes in tall buildings. I'm not sure, however, that those are particularly dangerous to eagles, of all things. The article is ludicruous, though:

      As wind turbines are essentially, if inadvertently, designed to take down eagles

      Excuse me? That's like saying that cars are "essentially designed to mow down pedestrians". I mean, really?

      Also, while the deaths are regrettable, and if the company was found out not to have taken steps to prevent bird deaths that could have been prevented, they ought to be sanctioned, these two particular bird species are not exactly what one might call endangered.

    • by hey! (33014) on Sunday December 08, 2013 @11:00AM (#45633003) Homepage Journal

      Well, start with the conservation status of the birds. Both species are rated as "Least Concern" -- which means no identifiable conservation issues.

      In the 1950s there were only 412 nesting pairs of bald eagles in the US, due to hunting and DDT. By 1995 they were taken off the endangered lists, and five years ago they were taken off the "threatened" list. By now there are nearly ten thousand breeding pairs in the lower 48. Half of US states have at least 100 breeding pairs.

      From an environmental viewpoint it's quite reasonable to stop treating an occasional accidental bald eagle death as some kind of serious event. For healthy population, an individual removed is room for another individual, just as with reasonable levels of deer hunting. Emitting more carbon in order to stop a handful of eagle accidents makes no sense at all.

    • by readin (838620)
      My concern wasn't "how many birds were killed by whom?" but rather, "Does Obama really have the authority to do this under the law, or is he yet again ignoring/breaking the law to further one of his pet agenda? In that sense the summary wasn't really biased, it just wasn't informative.
  • by Dputiger (561114) on Sunday December 08, 2013 @02:17AM (#45631191)

    There is no perfect solution here. I'm not saying companies should erect wind turbines in the middle of nesting areas, but the truth is, there is no risk-free, cost-free, environmental-damage-free answer to the problem of power production. Coal mining is wretched for the environment and coal miners have a nasty habit of dying of black lung. Nuclear power has risks (and I'm a nuclear proponent). The long-term cleanup and environmental repair is very costly if something goes wrong. Solar power is expensive. Wind turbines kill birds.

    At a certain point, the question is "What's an acceptable loss ratio?"

    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by Fishchip (1203964)
      How many eagle deaths power America? C'mon, you gotta phrase it like that, really put the boot to the feels. It's like you're not even trying.
    • by slick7 (1703596)

      "What's an acceptable loss ratio?"

      With the advent of the Patriot Act, NDAA, DHS buying billions of hollow point civilian killers ( if civilians were in possesion of these things, they would be labeled cop killers by the policy enforcers), the demise of the American people AND their symbol seems apropos.

    • by TubeSteak (669689)

      but the truth is, there is no risk-free, cost-free, environmental-damage-free answer to the problem of power production.

      It's usually "pick two out of three" when you are given any three factors. In this case, one of the articles assigns a specific value ($600k/year) to the cost of not-killing bald eagles.

      and coal miners have a nasty habit of dying of black lung.

      This is purely a failure of regulatory oversight.
      The laws regarding mining ventilation and dust reduction are effective.
      They were so effective that black lung mostly disappeared as a cause of miners deaths.
      Black lung has only had a resurgence because mining operations have been cutting costs and intentionally lying to &/

    • The U.S. should invade Afghanistan to make homes for nesting eagles.

    • by jandersen (462034) on Sunday December 08, 2013 @04:44AM (#45631533)

      I think, in this whole debate there is a lot of confused issues.

      Yes, eagles are important in the eco-system as top-level predators, but they are not the only important thing; they are just "iconic", whatever that means (it probably just means they sell better ). But all part of the environment are important - including conckroaches, rats and intestinal parasites; they are just not so "iconic". It is the balance that is important, the totality.

      Humans are also part of the environment, and we are not always harmful. Quite a lot of the landscapes we try to preserve are man-made; humans keep cattle; cattle eat everything over a certain height, opening op the landscape for a large number of small species that would not otherwise survive there, etc.

      Also, we are not the only species with a potentially negative impact on the environment; but we do seem to be the only species with the ability to understand the impact we have. And with that understanding comes, of course, the opportunity to make an informed choice. Some would say we have a moral obligation to make the best choice, according to our undestanding.

  • PC (Score:3, Insightful)

    by wallsg (58203) on Sunday December 08, 2013 @02:19AM (#45631193)

    Windmills: The Politically Correct way to kill eagles.

  • You have no idea how illegal it is to even posses an eagle feather you happen to find while hiking. The only people who get a pass are Native Americans.

    • The local Fish & Wildlife office here in Florida has a freezer in their meeting room that is specifically for storing dead bald eagles, if they ever happen to find one in the wilderness, or if one is killed by a vehicle on the road.

      I read the page of instructions of how they are to be handled and preserved, and which agency they call to collect the remains, for them to be distributed to the Native American tribes. Everything was very detailed, which was weird considering they are talking about roadkill.

  • It's crazy.

    The environmentalists don't appear to have anyone on their team who understand the amount (or even the magnitude) of the energy consumed globally to make it all work. That, or their desire for renewables is biased by an anti-capitalist desire to collapse the economy. I don't know.

    Brass tacks: We need -massive- amounts of energy, we will need even more, and there are two options - hydrocarbons and nuclear.

    The governments of the world should all have Manhattan-style projects to solve nuclear fusion

  • So simplistic (Score:4, Interesting)

    by surfdaddy (930829) on Sunday December 08, 2013 @02:53AM (#45631291)
    So you want to reduce use of fossil fuels? No technology is foolproof. Nuclear has its dangers. Solar energy would occupy acres of animal habitats. EVERYTHING is a tradeoff. The best solution of all is fewer humans. Do you care to sacrifice your ability to reproduce to help those eagles? I didn't think so.

    How about a more balanced view? How many eagles would really die? How does that compare to the dangers from CO2, from other technologies? What about the habitat ruined by oil wells, natural gas wells, fracking, etc.? It's really not at all as simplistic as this posting implies.

  • by MichaelSmith (789609) on Sunday December 08, 2013 @03:08AM (#45631317) Homepage Journal

    What about all the eagles killed by trucks, trains, cars and high buildings?

    • Don't try to address the summary with reason, it was transparently constructed to paint the president as an anti-environment monster with eagle heads for earrings and face smeared with dolphin blood. I'm not sure who is supposed to be persuaded by the comically over the top phrasing, but it should get some clicks.
  • There won't be any left in thirty years.

  • Was this whole slashdot article typed-up by the (Global warming isn't happening) lobby?
    • by DamonHD (794830)

      In conjunction with the "it's my damn right to have whatever I want whatever it costs other people" lobby.

      Wow, I saw some ugly narcissism and self-entitlement in above comments: nuance hasn't had a look in.

      Rgds

      Damon

  • I can finally open that Kentucky Fried Eagle franchise I've been dreaming of!
  • Now I see why, as a political group, those people are so annoying. Bullshit headlines like this make me a lot less interested in whatever asshole cause they are championing.

  • by jphamlore (1996436) <jphamlore@yahoo.com> on Sunday December 08, 2013 @05:19AM (#45631599)
    The encouragement of NIMBYism to block projects such as nuclear power has only created blowback that basically blocks everything, including projects vital to wind power. Let's take the example of Europe and powerlines [spiegel.de]:

    Many projects can't make any headway because numerous citizens' initiatives are blocking things like high-voltage transmission lines ... "It took over 30 years before a power line between France and Spain could be built," recalls an expert on the EU Commission ... In Germany there are also protests against virtually every major project of the Energiewende

    The article offers a ray of hope that Europe might establish a process where permits are granted in three and a half years with only one court about to stop the process:

    The EU has also taken a brash course on this front: The proposal would make it possible for the 200 top projects in Europe to receive a construction permit within three and a half years -- with only one court that would hear the objections of project opponents.

    Of course imagine the outrage if this short-circuiting of the right of protest and judicial review were granted for other types of energy projects ...

  • by MrL0G1C (867445) on Sunday December 08, 2013 @05:46AM (#45631671) Journal

    The wind industry is just making itself look bad by attempting to indemnify itself, but considering the completely nuts figures jurys come up with in America, not entirely surprising.

    Bald eagle pop' est 200,000, conservation status is 'least concern'.
    Golden eagle pop' est 170,000 to 250,000 conservation status is 'least concern'.

    Farmers, game keepers, egg collectors and tourists disturbing feeding areas are the biggest causes of bird death or nest failure.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_Eagle#Threats [wikipedia.org]

    'the Obama administration's reluctance to prosecute' Perhaps because without intent, there is actually little to prosecute for?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    This law, originally passed in 1940, provides for the protection of the bald eagle and the golden eagle by prohibiting the take, possession, sale, purchase, barter, offer to sell, purchase or barter, transport, export or import, of any bald or golden eagle, alive or dead, including any part, nest, or egg, unless allowed by permit Bald Eagle sitting in tree (16 U.S.C. 668(a); 50 CFR 22). "Take" includes pursue, shoot, shoot at, poison, wound, kill, capture, trap, collect, molest or disturb (16 U.S.C. 668c; 5

  • Okay, I will probably be modded down for this, but it's worth saying. And for the record, I'm opposed to needlessly killing animals.

    The first time I heard about eagles being killed by windmills, I imagined one being cut down while flying from point A to point B, not noticing that there was this lethal windmill in its path. Then, I saw a video on a website of an actual eagle death by windmill (and I apologize for not being able to find & post the link here) and was very surprised bu what I saw. Basically, the eagle was "dancing" with the windmill, repeatedly flying around it over and over. Like a moth flying around a flame. Eventually, the two paths intercepted, and the eagle was hit by the blade.

    So part of me wanted to scream "stupid eagle!" and make the natural selection comment. But maybe there is something hypnotic going on that makes the bird want to investigate this strange whirling object?

    Maybe a solution to the problem isn't to grant power companies "permits" to kill eagles, but to find a way to repel them rather than attract them.

    • I apologize for not being able to find & post the link here

      Is it this [youtube.com] video?

  • by gravis777 (123605) on Sunday December 08, 2013 @06:15AM (#45631751)

    You know, I get associated with right-winged conservatives all the time (probably for good reason), but I found this article stupid, and just another effort to blame the Obama Administration for something else.

    Do you have any idea how many wind turbines there are in California alone? Add to that all the wind turbines in Texas, plus all those strung out over the other 37 states that have wind power, and the fact that ONLY 85 eagles have been killed by them over 15 years is a pretty darn low number. I was expecting to read something like 100 per year. (Okay, granted, Texas isn't really the home of bald eagles)

    I get it, I am a patriot, and the hearing that any eagle are killed doesn't sit too well with me. But seriously, 85 over 15 years?

    How about an article saying how many animals are ALIVE from us going to windpower and reducing the amount of pollutant in the enviornment?

    The Obama Administration issuing permits to wind power companies protecting them from prosecution because a bird is stupid enough to fly into a turbine sounds like a logical move to me.

    Now if we were talking hundred or more birds killed a year in the same area, the argument could be made to disassemble some turbines in a given area. But these incidents sound pretty remote. The Altaria Wind Farm in California has 490 turbines. (source http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wind_power_in_the_United_States [wikipedia.org] ). I am too lazy to go and look at how many turbines there are total near eagle nesting area, but once again, the numbers reported are really low. (The article does state though that not all deaths are reported, so I can accept that hese numbers may be higher).

    Now if the poster can think of a way to get clean energy without any side effects, please tell us, and we will consider you for a Nobel Prize.

  • by 3seas (184403) on Sunday December 08, 2013 @07:51AM (#45632053) Journal

    If the Fan Industry didn't put guards on fans.......

    The solution is so obvious I should not have to spell it out.

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