An average US citizen or corporate entity who kills an endangered animal can be in big trouble with the law. Birds, eagles in particular, are zealously protected by nature lovers in America and around the world. Yet a July 2008 study of the wind farm at Altamont Pass, California, estimated that an average of 80 golden eagles were killed there by wind turbines each year. The study, funded by the Alameda County Community Development Agency, estimated that about 10,000 other protected birds were being killed along with the eagles every year at Altamont. Where is the outrage over this slaughter? It would seem ecologists have a blind spot when it comes to the wind energy industry. As a result, the carnage caused by wind turbines, the “Cuisinarts of the Air,” is getting greenwashed. And birds are not the only creatures wind turbines kill—they kill bats and people as well.
In the US, birds are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which dates back to 1918. Over the past two decades, the federal government has brought hundreds of cases against energy companies for killing wild birds in the operation of their businesses. For example, in July 2009, the Oregon based electric utility PacifiCorp paid $1.4 million in fines for killing 232 eagles in Wyoming over a period of two years. The birds were electrocuted by poorly-designed power lines. At the same time, wind-powered turbines are killing a vast number of birds each year yet their owners are not being prosecuted.
While the total number of birds killed in the US each year fluctuates, Michael Fry of the American Bird Conservancy estimates that US wind turbines kill between 75,000 and 275,000 birds per year. Yet the Justice Department is not bringing cases against wind companies. “Somebody has given the wind industry a get-out-of-jail-free card,” Fry said, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. “If there were even one prosecution,” he added, the wind industry would be forced to take the issue seriously (see “Windmills Are Killing Our Birds
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