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Obama administration won’t prosecute wind farm eagle deaths

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The Obama administration has just given the wind farm industry a pass by giving them protection from prosecution and allowing them to continue to kill eagles, bats and other birds.

According to an estimate published in March of 2013 by the Wildlife Society Bulletin, more than 573,000 birds are killed by the country's wind farms each year, including 83,000 hunting birds such as hawks, falcons and eagles,

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that wind turbines kill 440,000 bald and golden eagles, hawks, falcons, owls, cranes, egrets, geese, and other birds every year in the U.S., along with countless insect-eating bats.

Getting precise figures on bird kills though is nearly impossible because many companies aren't required to disclose how many birds they kill. And when they do, experts say, the data can be unreliable.

When companies voluntarily report deaths, the Obama administration in many cases refuses to make the information public, saying it belongs to the energy companies or that revealing it would expose trade secrets or implicate ongoing enforcement investigations.

Under both the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, the death of a single bird without a permit is illegal.

Birds killed which are protected under federal environmental laws, have generated tens of millions of dollars in fines and settlements from businesses, including oil and gas companies, over the past five years.

But under the Obama administration's new guidelines, wind-energy companies and only wind-energy companies will be held to a different standard and will be exempt from fines and prosecution when killing our national bird.

Although it is difficult for an operating wind farm to quickly or cheaply change its bird killing ways, there are new designs that don’t use blades. Also, there are locations better suited for wind farms where fewer birds would be put at risk.

Currently, there are over 39,000 windmills in our nation. Wind farms are clusters of turbines, can be as tall as 30-story buildings, with spinning rotors the size of jetliners. Though the blades appear to move slowly, they can reach speeds up to 170 mph at the tips, creating tornado-like vortexes.

Flying eagles are looking for food and may not notice the turbine blades until it’s too late.

“There is nothing in the evolution of eagles that would come near to describing a wind turbine. There has never been an opportunity to adapt to that sort of threat,” said Grainger Hunt, an eagle expert who researches the U.S. wind-power industry’s deadliest location, a northern California area known as Altamont Pass. Wind farms built there decades ago kill more than 60 eagles per year.

A deadly place in the country for golden eagles is Wyoming, where federal officials said wind farms have killed more than four dozen golden eagles since 2009, predominantly in the southeastern part of the state.

The golden eagle population in the West, prior to the wind energy boom, was declining so much that the government’s conservation goal in 2009 was not to allow the eagle population to decrease by a single bird.

In its defense, the wind-energy industry points out that more eagles are killed each year by cars, electrocutions and poisoning than by turbines.

Wind power, a pollution-free energy intended to ease global warming has been a cornerstone of President Barack Obama’s energy plan. His administration has championed a $1 billion-a-year tax break to the industry. Tax preferences given to producers of wind energy are far larger than those given to traditional energy producers. And yet, the windmill industry is not totally reliable as fluctuations constantly occur from over-producing to under-producing. Plus, most of the wind turbines in the U.S. are produced overseas and are owned by foreign countries.

Shamefully once again the administration has allowed lobbyists from another flailing government subsidized industry to dictate policy. And the result: taxpayers foot the bill, the rich get richer and many birds including eagles continue to die!

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