November 23, 2013

Wind energy company pleads guilty in eagle deaths

Duke Energy Corp. is the first wind power company to be prosecuted for deaths of protected birds.

By Dina Cappiello
The Associated Press

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A golden eagle is seen flying over a wind turbine on Duke Energy’s Top of the World wind farm in Converse County, Wyo., in April. The Obama administration is taking action against wind farms for killing eagles.

The Associated Press

As part of the agreement, Duke will continue to use field biologists to identify eagles and shut down turbines when they get too close. It will install new radar technology, similar to what is used in Afghanistan to track missiles. And it will continue to voluntarily report all eagle and bird deaths to the government.

The company will also have to apply for an eagle take permit, and draft a plan to reduce eagle and bird deaths at its four wind farms in Wyoming.

Duke’s $1 million will be divided. The fine – $400,000 – will go into a wetlands conservation fund. The state of Wyoming gets $100,000. The remainder will be used to purchase land or easements to protect golden eagle habitat and for projects aimed at minimizing interactions between eagles and wind turbines in Wyoming.

While the settlement with Duke is a first, there could be more enforcement. The Fish and Wildlife Service is investigating 18 bird-death cases involving wind-power facilities, and about a half dozen have been referred to the Justice Department.

“No form of energy generation, or human activity for that matter, is completely free of impacts and wind energy is no exception,” said the American Wind Energy Association in a statement, adding that air pollution-free wind power helps what experts say is the greatest threat to wildlife and their habitats – global warming.

Associated Press writer Mead Gruver contributed reporting from Cheyenne, Wyo.

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