Published May 04, 2016
The Obama administration is revising a federal rule that allows wind-energy companies to operate high-speed turbines for up to 30 years, even if means killing or injuring thousands of federally protected bald and golden eagles.
Under the plan announced Wednesday, companies could kill or injure up to 4,200 bald eagles a year without penalty -- nearly four times the current limit. Golden eagles could only be killed if companies take steps to minimize the losses, for instance, by retrofitting power poles to reduce the risk of electrocution.
Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe said the proposal will "provide a path forward" for maintaining eagle populations while also spurring development of a pollution-free energy source that's intended to ease global warming, a cornerstone of President Barack Obama's energy plan.
Ashe said the 162-page proposal would protect eagles and at the same time "help the country reduce its reliance on fossil fuels" such as coal and oil that contribute to global warming.
"There's a lot of good news in here," Ashe said in an interview, calling the plan "a great tool to work with to further conservation of two iconic species."
The proposal sets objectives for eagle management, addresses how bird populations will be monitored and provides a framework for how the permitting system fits within the agency's overall eagle management, Ashe said.
Wind farms are clusters of turbines as tall as 30-story buildings, with spinning rotors as wide as a passenger jet's wingspan. Blades can reach speeds of up to 170 mph at the tips, creating tornado-like vortexes.