Wind farms will soon be able to apply for official permission to slice-and-dice a negotiable numbers of eagles for 30 years

A rule expected to be final soon will give wind farm operators official permission to “take” eagles for 30 years. Unintentional deaths of protected birds will not be prosecuted. For 30 years.

Currently, permits are available for 5 years, but reports I’ve read say no permits have yet been issued under those rules.

A document that appears to be the near-final rule is here. That has the same document number, RIN 1018-AX91, as the OMB announcement here. You can read it for yourself.

I read the first 18 pages of the 87 page rule, up to the point where the document gives responses to comments in the draft rule. Sort of understood it.

Here are a few of the key ideas:

  • Permits for programmatic ‘takings’ are available for 30 years.
  • Permits will be reviewed every 5 years.
  • Permits will specify an allowable number of takings.
  • Permit holders will annually report the number of injured and killed eagles on their project. My understanding is that currently no projects are required to report the count of sliced-and-diced eagles.
  • FWS will release the reporting takings annually and at the 5 year permit review. Currently, my perception is that info is a closely guarded secret.
  • If the casualty count exceeds the amount in the permit, FWS can require additional mitigation efforts.
  • The rule acknowledges there is no scientifically verified methodology to reduce casualties. Currently there are several ideas in use, but none have been validated.

Why is this hot news today?

Page 5 of the rule says the proposal to extend the permit to 30 years was published April 13, 2012. This plan to allow 30 year slicing-and-dicing permits is actually old news. Why is this hot news just this week?

My guess is the AP reporters realized just recently the 30 year time frame was in play. They seem to have broken the story.  Their report has run widely. I’ve seen the AP’s report verbatim on ABC, NBC, USA Today.

There are a lot of other reports visible.

Comments from others

Here are three comments from Million Dollar Way in his post, Slicers and Dicers Given Three Decades Immunity: (He writes headlines a lot tighter than me):

If the Sierra Club has no objection to the wind industry decimating bald and golden eagles, and probably bringing about the demise of the California condor and the whooping crane, I certainly won’t prolong the discussion. …

This is a watershed event. For the first time in this administration, technology and big-money corporations have won out over environmentalists. …

For the environmentalists this is very, very bad news. It will be hard for a jury / judge to find an oil company negligent for killing a single migratory duck that happens to fly into a waste pond.

Four species of high-profile, photogenic, majestic birds whose survival is now at risk:

  • bald eagles
  • golden eagles
  • condors
  • whooping cranes

I guess thousands of raptors and millions of bats won’t count either.

We have to kill ‘em to save ‘em, and A blank check

The Los Angeles Times covers the story and adds a few colorful quotes: Wind farms get extended leeway on eagle deaths

A spokesman for the American Wind Energy Assn. said

the new regulations would “increase the protection of eagles and will help develop more wind farms, a leading solution to climate change, which is the No. 1 threat to all eagles and all wildlife.”

I’m not making this up – I’m not that creative. Global warming is the primary threat to eagles. We have to kill eagles with wind farms to reduce global warming to the point that eagles will be able to survive.

We gotta’ kill eagles today to save eagles some day.

Robert Bryce says he gets that argument often. I didn’t expect to see that as an official announcement from the wind farm industry. Mr. Bryce says the impact of carbon savings from wind farms is inconsequential, nothing more than

a baby’s burp in a hurricane

A press release from the National Audubon Society said:

“Instead of balancing the need for conservation and renewable energy, Interior wrote the wind industry a blank check,” … “It’s outrageous that the government is sanctioning the killing of America’s symbol, the bald eagle.”

More background

For background, here is the summary comment from the OMB site, which has a brief comment here disclosing the Department of Interior / Fish and Wildlife will finalize their rule. The comment, which I quote in full on the basis government info is public and this is a fair use, says:

We will finalize our proposal to revise the regulations for permits for non-purposeful of take of eagles–that is, where the take is associated with, but not the purpose of, the activity. We proposed to extend the possible maximum term for programmatic permits to 30 years, as long as the permits incorporate conditions requiring the permittee to implement additional adaptive conservation measures if such measures are necessary to ensure the preservation of eagles. This change will facilitate the development of renewable energy and other projects that are designed to be in operation for many decades. These regulations will provide a measure of certainty to project proponents and their funders, while continuing to protect eagles consistent with statutory mandates. 

 I predict wing-toasters will be next industry to get an official okay to off protected birds.

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