Obama grants wind industry permit to kill eagles, ruffling more than feathers

On Eagles' wings: Solomon, a 14-year-old golden eagle, is unable to fly or survive in the wild because his wing was severed by a wind turbine. Despite a 1940 protection act, a California wind energy generator will not be penalized for killing a limited number of eagles.On Eagles’ wings: Solomon, a 14-year-old golden eagle, is unable to fly or survive in the wild because his wing was severed by a wind turbine. Despite a 1940 protection act, a California wind energy generator will not be penalized for killing a limited number of eagles.
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The Interior Department’s decision to extend by sixfold the permit period prompted Mr. Sandoval to create a video game, “Greed Energy Kills,” which depicts cartoon birds and bats trying to avoid turbines.

Wind farms typically feature clusters of turbines that can rise as high as a 30-story building, with whirling rotors that can reach more than 150 mph at the tips of the blades. Eagles scanning the ground below for a meal often do not see the danger until it is too late.

The conservancy lawsuit cites the 1940 Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, which provides fines and jail time for those who kill eagles on purpose or by accident. The law even prohibits possession of eagle feathers, talons and beaks.

In 2009, the Fish and Wildlife Service added a provision to the 1940 law allowing permits for eagle kills when they are incidental to an otherwise legal activity, such as construction or transportation projects.

Since the 1980s, wind turbines have killed an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 eagles, but the industry has paid only one fine, Mr. Johns said.

“If you or I get caught with an eagle feather, we’ve got some serious explaining to do. We’re going to pay a hefty fine,” said Mr. Johns. “There’s no exception noted in the law for the wind industry. The notion that somehow they’re entitled when the law doesn’t provide for it is ridiculous.”

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