The nation’s wind farms kill over 573,000 birds each year, including approximately 83,000 hunting birds (eagles, hawks, falcons, etc.). However, the Obama Administration has decided to shield the wind power industry from liability by granting them federal exemptions under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA). Curiously these exemptions have been granted while the Administration has been simultaneously filing charges against fossil fuel companies for an illegal “take” of a bird species protected under federal law. Put simply, if a protected bird species is inadvertently killed or harmed in the operations process of an oil or coal company, the company can be shut down for extended periods of time and face large fines. However, if a protected bird species is killed or harmed by a wind farm, the new norm has become to look the other way.
This hypocrisy extends even to the California condor, a flagship species of the ESA. Typically fines for a condor “take” can amount to up to $200,000 for each condor death. However, some wind farms in California, with the approval of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, have been specifically shielded from prosecution. This has left many wondering whether the tens of millions of dollars spent over the past several decades on recovery of the California condor have been worth the substantial effort.
According to Representative Ed Whitfield, Chairman of the House Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Energy & Power, “If you kill an eagle, and you happen to be a private business or you’re a power generator or you’re an oil company or a chemical company, you’re going to be fined. But if you’re a wind energy company, even though the bird you killed may be protected under the Endangered Species Act, you’re going to be protected.” As the Obama Administration’s obsession with green energy at the expense of all else once again comes to light, the biggest question remaining is: Do birds protected under the ESA and MBTA actually need to be protected or not? If they do, it’s time to apply the ESA and MBTA to wind farms.