Fine of $1 million for wind farm bird kills

A wind farm energy company has agreed to pay $1 million in fines, restitution and community service because it erected wind generators in Wyoming and didn't do enough to not kill migratory birds, including 14 golden eagles, according to a report by the E&;E news service written by Phil Taylor.

The fine is only part of a plea agreement submitted to the U.S. District Court of Wyoming between Duke Energy Corporation based in North Carolina and the federal Department of Justice's Environmental and Natural Resources Division. Duke Energy must implement an environmental compliance plan to prevent future bird deaths. The company is also on five years of probation. The company says it will be spending $600,000 per year implementing its compliance plan. Company representatives will also be meeting with representatives of the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to "develop adaptive mitigation measures.    

The claim by the DOJ was that 163 birds were killed by wind generator blades between 2009 and earlier this year. The wind generators are on private agricultural lands but DOJ contends that Duke Energy was irresponsible in locating the wind generators where they are and hasn't done enough to mitigate possible bird deaths.

The DOJ used a 1918 law that "protects more than 1,000 migratory bird species as the basis for its lawsuit. The results of this lawsuit have to be worrying other wind farm operators. Taylor reports that the FWS has 18 active investigations of migratory bird violations and has referred six of them to DOJ.

The natural gas and other non-renewable energy industries have criticized the Obama administration for giving "turbine operators a free pass despite clear violations of bird protection laws while penalizing the oil and gas industry for violating those same statutes, Taylor wrote in his report.

Duke Energy has claimed that it took steps to mitigate golden eagle and other bird deaths once it was discovered that eagles were ignoring the dangers of the wind farm blades. Indications are that one thing the company is doing is installing radar equipment that will shut down wind turbines when birds such as eagles are detected as coming into a wind farm site. Additionally, the sites are being made uninviting to birds by also making it uninviting to prey that attracts such birds as hawks and eagles.