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Wind farm pays $2.5 milllion fine for massacring hundreds of protected birds including eagles

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(NaturalNews) PacifiCorp Energy, a subsidiary of Portland, Oregon-based PacifiCorp, pleaded guilty to charges of violating the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) at two of its wind turbine farms in Wyoming. The sum of fines and restitution to various federal wild life agencies came to $2.5 million.

The charges were based on carcasses of 38 golden eagles and 336 other protected birds, including hawks, blackbirds, larks, wrens and sparrows, discovered since 2009 on two sites operated by PacifiCorp Energy at their Wyoming "Seven Mile Hill" and "Glenrock/Rolling Hills" wind projects in Carbon and Converse Counties between 2009 and the present.

The two wind projects are comprised of 237 large wind turbines sited on private and company-owned land. They also have two other Wyoming sites that were not charged with violations of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

The treaty that U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) used against PacifiCorp Energy

The MBTA was enacted in 1918. Its wording was to specifically restrict hunting, capturing or killing of migratory birds or removal of nests without permits. Permits allow specific amounts for specific purposes. Migratory birds was expanded to include non-migratory endangered species, of which there are over 1,000 listed.

As American society developed and built tall buildings with glass windows into which birds crash and die, along with high-power electric lines, different interpretations of the original hunt, capture and kill restrictions developed. What could be allowed was those big buildings with glass, because they are part of everyday normal life that can't be disallowed -- too normal to fail.

This includes airports that kill more birds and egg-containing nests near runway areas in days than this wind farm killed in five or six years. Too normal to shut down or even restrict avian slaughter.

Accidental nest destruction from logging and tree clearing is also absolved from liability. So only what are extra- or ultra-hazardous projects come under MBTA scrutiny.

Wind farms went through a period of some Federal District Courts allowing incidental slaughter while others did not. Then in 2003, the FWS installed wording that would require wind farms to cooperate during construction planning to agree on site installation and other protective infrastructure measures to minimize inevitable avian population damage.

Wind farms would thus be culpable by non-cooperation or lacking permits to kill limited numbers.

Case commentary

Intentional wildlife bagging without permits is considered a felony. But the somewhat less intentionally rendered corporate wildlife deaths without permits or beyond permit allowances are considered misdemeanors with fines and a five-year probationary period.

By not getting together with FWS to determine the best way to minimize avian dangers, PacifiCorp stands guilty.

Sam Hirsch, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division, claimed, "PacifiCorp Energy built two of its Wyoming wind projects in a manner it knew would likely result in the deaths of eagles and other protected birds."

Then Hirsch announced, "PacifiCorp has taken steps to minimize the hazard, and with this plea agreement has committed to a comprehensive plan to continue such efforts in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, to seek eagle take permits for each project, and to work to prevent future eagle deaths."

That's interesting. You can bag a few eagles, just not too many, if you get a permit that's paid to a government agency. And part of this five-year probation includes not only taking safety measures according to FWS guidelines but purchasing permits that would allow a certain amount of unintentional avian deaths.

The fines go to state and federal agencies, and so do the permit fees.

It seems that this pursuit of wildlife justice should be applied more to coal and other dirty energy air and waterway pollution from faulty equipment and negligent operation that kills more fish and wildlife over time from one catastrophic spill than what these wind-powered turbines have done over a few years.





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