eagles

Interior Department: With permit, wind farms can kill eagles for up to 30 years

2013-12-07T08:00:00Z Interior Department: With permit, wind farms can kill eagles for up to 30 yearsBy BENJAMIN STORROW Star-Tribune staff writer Casper Star-Tribune Online

In a move that could have far-reaching ramifications for Wyoming’s growing wind industry, permitted wind developers will be able to kill eagles for up to 30 years, under a new rule announced Friday by the Department of Interior.

The rule extends the lifespan of what are known as “eagle take permits” from five to 30 years. The permits allow transmission operators, power producers and other industries to kill a limited number of eagles without penalty under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.

“The changes in this permitting program will help the renewable energy industry and others develop projects that can operate in the longer term, while ensuring bald and golden eagles continue to thrive for future generations,” said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell in a prepared statement.

News of the change quickly reverberated around Wyoming on Friday. One of the largest planned wind facilities in the United States, the Chokecherry-Sierra Madre wind farm, will be built in Carbon County. The 1,000-turbine project is expected to generate between 2,000 and 3,000 megawatts of power.

The project’s developer, Power Company of Wyoming, announced earlier this week it would seek an eagle take permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“PCW will discuss the availability of a longer-term permit as part of its ongoing dialogue with the service,” company spokeswoman Kara Choquette wrote in an email to the Star-Tribune.

She pointed to Fish and Wildlife guidelines that stipulate longer-term permits will only be granted to companies with an identified plan for limiting eagle deaths. PCW intends to pursue such measures, Choquette said.

Duke Renewable Energy, a North Carolina-based wind developer with two operational projects near Casper, will likely apply for a take permit, said spokeswoman Tammie McGee.

Duke became the first company ever prosecuted for killing 14 golden eagles and 149 other protected species between 2009 and 2013 at its Top of the World and Campbell Hill wind farms. In a recent settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice, the company agreed to pay $1 million in fines and take measures to reduce and avoid avian deaths.

“It is hard for me to say whether or not the service will grant us a 30-year permit, but it is something we will certainly explore with them,” McGee said.

Christine Mikell, president of Wasatch Wind, did not return requests for comment on the ruling’s potential impact for her company’s proposed facility in Converse County.

Wind industry proponents pushed for longer take permits, saying they would facilitate the development of renewable energy projects. They welcomed the Interior Department’s announcement.

“This permit program promotes eagle conservation,” said John Anderson, director of siting policy for the American Wind Energy Association.

Environmentalists disagreed, saying the change would be devastating for some of the country’s most fragile bird populations.

“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 in a news release. “It’s outrageous that the government is sanctioning the killing of America’s symbol, the Bald Eagle.”

Wind developers are not required to seek an eagle take permit, as some facilities are located in areas without eagle populations, said Dave Carlson, a coordinator at the Fish and Wildlife Service. But killing a bird protected under either the Migratory Bird Treaty or Bald and Golden Eagle Protection acts without a permit puts them in violation of the law.

The number of birds that can be killed is determined on a permit-by-permit basis, though in the case of golden eagles the net impact must be zero, Carlson said. Companies must prove they have a plan to minimize golden eagle deaths and identify measures to boost the bird’s population elsewhere to meet that threshold, he said.

Fish and Wildlife has two types of eagle permits: one for small scale takes, the other for larger “programmatic” takes, said service spokesman Chris Tollefson. Wind and other industrial uses falls under the latter category.

The service has never issued a programmatic permit, Tollefson said. It is currently considering around 15 such permits, the vast majority of which are from wind developers. The others are from utilities and two military bases, he said.

The change was prompted by the difficulty five-year permits presented to developers, who invest large amounts of time and capital in renewable energy and other projects, he said. The extended lifetime of the take permits is intended to better reflect the lifetime of those projects.

At the same time, he said Fish and Wildlife will review the permits every five years to make sure the conditions are being met.

“The overall goal is to bring more actions into a permitting regimen where we can help developers and operators to reduce fatalities,” Tollefson said. “We know takes are happening out there now, and it can be avoided.”

Reach energy reporter Benjamin Storrow at 307-266-0535 or benjamin.storrow@trib.com. Follow him on Twitter @bstorrow.

Copyright 2015 Casper Star-Tribune Online. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(10) Comments

  1. rider235
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    rider235 - December 10, 2013 4:22 pm
    WYO-BILL: there are take permits for wolves – they are called hunting licenses. Any resident of Wyoming can get one for $18. And you don’t have to spend years of study and millions of dollars complying with federal regulations to get one, you just buy your take permit over the counter at your local store. If you are a rancher, then under certain circumstances you can kill wolves without a take permit and not be federally prosecuted – it’s even called “take”. Read the regulations. While on the subject, it’s also illegal under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act to kill some thousand or so federally protected bird species without a take permit. Currently, the only take permits issued are hunting licenses for waterfowl. So if you are opposed to federal permitting take of protected species, then you must also be opposed to wolf hunts and waterfowl hunting.
  2. Rez kid
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    Rez kid - December 08, 2013 9:45 am
    Totally agree, under Obama we will have a "Lost Decade" just like Japan did.
  3. Rez kid
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    Rez kid - December 08, 2013 9:44 am
    Less eagles and hawks mean MORE Sage Grouse. I have probably 40 birds a year fly into my windows and kill themselves. Oh darn, I SHOULD HAVE KEPT MY MOUTH SHUT, now the feds will be knocking on my door telling me I need to get a kill permit.
  4. wyochris
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    wyochris - December 08, 2013 7:51 am
    You gotta wonder just HOW these Lib's can still LIKE this creep in the WH!? I've been predicting for over a year now-that the "wheels are gonna fall off" his wagon, and it looks like it's finally happening! I understand that his approval rating is down to about 30 some %, but still wonder just WHO is still part of that positive approval-other than the unemployed, people on "entitlement" programs, and the loudmouth "deadbeats" of this country? Are these people so BONE HEADED as to think that this guys is doing us a good job? ...that he's not LYING to America, that he's not LEADING US INTO THE SEA to drown in our debt and failures like those rats following the Pied Piper? I find that the Lib's are the most active writers on these Trib comments-UNTIL they have absolutely NOTHING to boast about their glorious leader! Then they go quiet until they find something to gripe about again! Yep-the "wheels are coming off', and not a day to soon to suit me! I just hope and pray that someone else can get us OUT of this hole he put us into! Doesn't look like the spineless Congress will be able to do it!
  5. Swen
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    Swen - December 08, 2013 3:45 am
    To he11 with the birds, California needs the electricity!
  6. WYO-BILL
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    WYO-BILL - December 07, 2013 6:49 pm
    Speaking of soup we need to get Michele Obama on this to get some recipes for school lunches since she has banned everything else that tastes good. Golden eagle soup and Bald eagle soup sound very tasty and nutritious. Taste like chicken?

    Does anyone know if eagles are color blind? If not, let's just paint the blades purple or orange to scare them away. Imagine that on the WYO landscape!

    Only a biologist would come up with a 'take permit'. No 'take permits' for wolves?
  7. Rawhide
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    Rawhide - December 07, 2013 1:37 pm
    WTH....ain't these greenies a hoot...make soup out of one and the hang you by the nuts for 30 years...build a wind farm you get rewarded for killing them...does the oil companies still get fined thousands of dollars for ones death...
  8. thehousemouse
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    thehousemouse - December 07, 2013 12:31 pm
    The only things we can do is not elect people in wyoming who would allow these bird blenders to be put up. vote out politicians who are in bed with the wind energy industry, which we have at least one county commissioner. and a couple in city council. members who are all for this because they make a nice sum of money off them for themselves. picket potential sights for these monstrocities, get enviormental agancies to sue. anything you can do to stop them, vote out substudies on them, take the money out of them and they will be history. frankly iim sick of wyoming wildlife being sold to highest bidder.
  9. limbaugh
    Report Abuse
    limbaugh - December 07, 2013 10:18 am
    They only kill 500,000+ birds a year. And it's ok because they're killed with "clean green" energy. And I'm sure the administration won't fine you up to $100,000 for possessing a feather from one of the eagles killed by a wind turbine.
  10. 99Savage
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    99Savage - December 07, 2013 8:57 am
    Well now, isn't this a fine kettle of fish. We have duly enacted laws protecting golden and bald eagles but Obama, through his imperial presidency simply writes a rule exempting wind farms. Usurping the power of the legislature seem to be something the executive branch under Obama does on a regular bases. Hey, we don't need no stinkin' Constitution. Then to add insult to injury with Orwellian arrogance, we are told by Obama's minions that this is all good for the environment.

    Ok all you envirowhackos, you supported and voted for Obama. How do you feel now? Are you going to challenge this in the courts like you do with all the "dirty" energy development? It must be gut-wrenching for you. As for the O-bots, they will rationalize it somehow.
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