U.S. wind energy company fined $8m for killing bald and golden eagles

The deaths of migratory birds have been a major concern since the introduction of wind turbines, which are estimated to cause as many as 681,000 bird deaths every year in the United States alone.

U.S. wind energy company fined $8m for killing bald and golden eagles
AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty
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A wind energy company has been fined $8 million after pleading guilty to killing at least 150 bald and golden eagles.

On Wednesday, NextEra Energy subsidiary ESI Energy pleaded guilty to three counts of violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

The Act, which was passed in 1918, bans hunting and the poaching of protected migratory birds. Described as “America's most important bird protection law,” the law has allowed previously endangered species of eagles and other migratory birds to maintain stable populations since being enacted in the last century.

The company was charged over the deaths of eagles at its wind farms in Wyoming and New Mexico. Next Era and ESI are also responsible for harming eagles across eight different states, prosecutors argue.

The birds are killed when they fly into the blades of wind turbines, which they have difficulty seeing.

The deaths of migratory birds have been a major concern since the introduction of wind turbines, which are estimated to cause as many as 681,000 bird deaths every year in the United States alone, according to the American Bird Conservancy.

As a result of their admission, the ESI must pay a fine of $8 million and spend an additional $27 million on projects designed to increase the safety of eagles and other birds around its wind farms over the next five years, which is a part of its probationary period.

“For more than a decade, ESI has violated [wildlife] laws, taking eagles without obtaining or even seeking the necessary permit,” Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division said in a statement.

Under a plea agreement, ESI must pay $29,623 per dead eagle for any future deaths.

Despite calls to remedy its crimes against nature, wildlife experts do not expect a decline in losses, even with the anticipated safety precautions.

In a statement, Next Era president Rebecca Kujawa condemned the government’s enforcement of the law, and said that other industries were just as responsible for bird deaths.

“Building any structure, driving any vehicle, or flying any airplane carries with it a possibility that accidental eagle and other bird collisions may occur,” Kujawa added.

Unlike skyscrapers, which also pose significant dangers to urban birds, and airplanes, which do suffer from bird strikes from time to time, wind turbines are located mainly around bird habitats such as hills and sea sides.

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  • By Ezra Levant

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