Interior Finalizes Longer Eagle Kill Permits for Wind Farms

Washington, UNITED STATES: Challenger, a bald eagle, participates in an event marking the removal of the bald eagle from the endangered species list 28 June, 2007 at the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, DC. In 1963 there were barely 400 nesting pairs of bald eagles in the lower 48 states; today there are more than 10,000 nesting pairs. AFP PHOTO/Karen BLEIER 
National Journal
Ben Geman
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Ben Geman
Dec. 6, 2013, 5:13 a.m.

The In­teri­or De­part­ment has fi­nal­ized a con­tro­ver­sial reg­u­la­tion that au­thor­izes per­mits as long as 30 years for wind farms to kill golden and bald eagles.

A ma­jor con­ser­va­tion group quickly slammed the rule that lengthens the cur­rent five-year per­mit­ting for the un­in­ten­tion­al deaths of eagles caused by wind farms and oth­er fa­cil­it­ies.

“In­stead of bal­an­cing the need for con­ser­va­tion and re­new­able en­ergy, In­teri­or wrote the wind in­dustry a blank check,” said Audu­bon Pres­id­ent and CEO Dav­id Yarnold.

Na­tion­al Journ­al covered the rule and the con­tro­versy around it Thursday.

Wind in­dustry of­fi­cials say their in­dustry poses little threat to eagle pop­u­la­tions and that the per­mits will provide reg­u­lat­ory cer­tainty to de­velopers of wind farms and vari­ous oth­er types of pro­jects.

“The wind in­dustry does more to ad­dress its im­pacts on eagles than any of the oth­er, far great­er sources of eagle fatal­it­ies known to wild­life ex­perts, and we are con­stantly striv­ing to re­duce these im­pacts even fur­ther,” the Amer­ic­an Wind En­ergy As­so­ci­ation said Fri­day.

“In fact, the wind in­dustry has taken the most pro­act­ive and lead­ing role of any util­ity-scale en­ergy source to min­im­ize wild­life im­pacts in gen­er­al, and spe­cific­ally for eagles, through con­stantly im­prov­ing sit­ing and mon­it­or­ing tech­niques,” the group said.

But sev­er­al con­ser­va­tion groups have been bat­tling the meas­ure, and Yarnold, the Audu­bon CEO, vowed that the fight will con­tin­ue even though the meas­ure has been fi­nal­ized.

“It’s out­rageous that the gov­ern­ment is sanc­tion­ing the killing of Amer­ica’s sym­bol, the Bald Eagle,” he said.

“Audu­bon will con­tin­ue to look for reas­on­able, thought­ful part­ners to wean Amer­ica off fossil fuels be­cause that should be every­one’s highest pri­or­ity. We have no choice but to chal­lenge this de­cision, and all op­tions are on the table,” Yarnold said.

The rule text touts con­ser­va­tion pro­vi­sions in the reg­u­la­tion.

“The per­mits must in­cor­por­ate con­di­tions spe­cify­ing ad­di­tion­al meas­ures that may be ne­ces­sary to en­sure the pre­ser­va­tion of eagles, should mon­it­or­ing data in­dic­ate the need for the meas­ures,” it states.

The reg­u­la­tion will “fa­cil­it­ate the re­spons­ible de­vel­op­ment of re­new­able en­ergy and oth­er pro­jects de­signed to op­er­ate for dec­ades, while con­tinu­ing to pro­tect eagles con­sist­ent with our stat­utory man­dates,” the rule states.

In a state­ment re­leased by the In­teri­or De­part­ment Fri­day, Sec­ret­ary Sally Jew­ell de­fen­ded the rule as a way to bol­ster al­tern­at­ive en­ergy pro­duc­tion. “Re­new­able en­ergy de­vel­op­ment is vi­tally im­port­ant to our na­tion’s fu­ture,” Jew­ell said, adding: “But it has to be done in the right way. “The changes in this per­mit­ting pro­gram will help the re­new­able en­ergy in­dustry and oth­ers de­vel­op pro­jects that can op­er­ate in the longer term.” 

The rule was un­veiled Fri­day and will be pub­lished in Monday’s Fed­er­al Re­gister.

Clare Foran contributed to this article.
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