Bird Conservation Groups Sue over Lake Erie Industrial Wind Facility

Published February 13, 2020

Two bird conservation groups filed a lawsuit claiming federal agencies did not follow the law during the approval process for the Icebreaker Wind industrial facility on Lake Erie.

The American Bird Conservancy (ABC) and Black Swamp Bird Observatory (BSBO) filed suit in the U.S. District Court for Washington, D.C. over bird collision risks at the 21 megawatt (Mw) offshore industrial wind farm to be located on Lake Erie approximately eight miles north of Cleveland, Ohio.

‘Failure to Comply’

The lawsuit names the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Army Corps) for “failure to comply with the [1970] National Environmental Policy Act and the [1972] Clean Water Act.”

According to the plaintiffs, the DOE and Army Corps failed to carry out a comprehensive environmental impact statement assessing the full range of environmental impacts and alternatives associated with the Icebreaker Wind project.

In a joint press release, the ABC and BSBO say the site where the turbines for the Icebreaker Wind facility were approved to be constructed is part of an area designated by the Audubon society as a “Global Important Bird Area.” The organizations claim the turbines pose a “substantial collision” risk to the enormous numbers of birds using the area, including large concentrations of migrating songbirds, common loons, globally significant populations of red-breasted mergansers, and other waterfowl, all of which are protected by international treaties and federal law.

“[R]ather than conduct the robust examination that federal law required for this groundbreaking project that will fundamentally transform this freshwater ecosystem and pave the way to a substantial expansion of wind turbines in the Great Lakes, DOE has instead willfully ignored inconvenient data and shirked its obligations,” the lawsuit states.

‘Bird Groups Join the Battle’

Bird conservation groups sat on the sidelines for a long time before finally attempting to stop the slaughter of birds by wind turbines in at least one area of the United States, says Jay Lehr, a senior policy analyst at The International Climate Science Coalition.

“The Altamont, California wind area is said by the Audubon Society to kill a half million birds a year,” Lehr said. “It’s about time some bird groups joined the battle for a proper environmental study, one that up until now has not been done with any accuracy.

“Our nation has no need for highly subsidized wind turbines to supplant our amazing amount of safe natural gas,” Lehr said. “At last, at least some bird groups are taking up the fight for the lives of valued birds against the climate delusion, which has afforded generous tax benefits for unreliable and expensive wind energy.”

PTC Drives Wind Farms

Federal tax credits are the driving force behind the growth of wind facilities, says John Droz, executive director of the Alliance for Wise Energy Decisions.

“Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) has been at the forefront pushing wind power because he’s bought into the argument wind energy is good for his state,” Droz said. “It’s not true, but it is the argument the lobbyists have used on him.

“The production tax credit (PTC), under which wind operators get a tax credit for every megawatt of electricity they generate, started back in the ’90s, so we’ve been dealing with it for over 15 years, and like a lot of other government programs they said it would just be temporary,” Droz said.

Droz says the PTC has lapsed many times in the past, only to be saved by legislators under the influence of the wind lobby.

“The PTC has expired 10 times since it was initially authorized, yet every single time, at the last minute or shortly after the last minute, Congress resurrected it, showing the power of the wind energy lobby,” Droz said.

Under President Trump, the U.S. Coast Guard, Department of Energy, State Department, and Federal Aviation Administration each gave Icebreaker their approval, says Droz.

“What is especially disappointing in this case is the Trump administration’s Department of Energy is ridiculously siding with the wind developers,” Droz said.

Kenneth Artz ([email protected]) writes from Dallas, Texas.

Official Connections

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA):;