Bird Conservancy Files Suit Against Wind Turbines

Published July 11, 2014

The American Bird Conservancy has filed a lawsuit against the federal government, charging the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service with “multiple violations of federal law” in granting wind turbine permits. At issue is the FWS’s controversial proposed rule that would allow wind power facilities to kill protected golden and bald eagles for periods of up to 30 years. Currently, eagle kill permits are valid for only five years.

The 1940 Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act imposes fines and jail time on people who kill eagles, either intentionally or accidentally. As part of its policy to push renewable energy, however, the Obama FWS in 2009 inserted an exemption into the law, allowing permits for wind turbines to eagle kills “accidentally” even when such kills are foreseeable when building wind farms.

Sacrificing Eagles for Wind Power
In its lawsuit, the American Bird Conservancy specifically cites the 1940 statute in stating the FWS is violating federal law. The FWS added the 2009 provision administratively; Congress played no role when the FWS unilaterally amended the law. 

The FWS estimates wind turbines in the United States kill 440,000 birds each year, but many environmentalists say the number is much higher. A peer-reviewed study published last year in the Wildlife Society Bulletin reported U.S. wind turbines kill 1.4 million birds and bats each year, including 573,000 birds.

“Americans take pride in the fact that Bald Eagles are once again a common sight in many places across the country. Their popularity and symbolic importance suggests that the American people are not going to tolerate the deaths of many to wind turbines,” said Dr. Michael Hutchins, National Coordinator of American Bird Conservancy’s Bird Smart Wind Energy Program, in a press statement.

‘So Sue Me’
Energy analyst Marita Noon says the American Bird Conservancy suit is fitting considering President Obama’s bold challenge for people to sue his administration.

“President Obama has proudly challenged, ‘So sue me.’ The American Bird Conservancy is to be applauded for stepping up with a lawsuit against the administration’s policy of executive overreach and favoritism,” said Noon. 

“While the law prescribes fines and jail time for those who accidentally kill bald and golden eagles, under Obama the FWS modified the law by allowing the favored wind industry ‘kill permits’ that permit wind turbine operators to murder the majestic birds by chopping them up,” Noon explained. 

Bonner R. Cohen, Ph. D., ([email protected]) is a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research.