News and analysis about renewable energy in California.

CA Wind Facilities Want Permits That Will Allow Them to Harm Eagles

Wind turbines in Solano County | Photo: Corey seeman/Flickr/Creative Commons License

Four California-based wind power facilities have applied to the federal government for permits to harm eagles, ReWire has learned.

The applications, revealed as the result of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) search by an Oklahoma journalist, would shield the wind power companies from prosecution under the federal Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (BGEPA) if eagles are injured or killed by their turbines.

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The four facilities are the Shiloh IV and Solano in Northern California's Solano County, operated by EDF and the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, respectively; Terra-Gen's Alta East Wind project planned for Kern County near Mojave; and RES Americas' Granite Mountain Wind near Victorville in San Bernardino County. Ten other take permit applications have been filed with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service by wind developers in other parts of the country.

A "take" is legal jargon for harming, harassing, or killing members of a protected species. Generally, if a project only kills enough wildlife to stay within the conditions of its take permit, it's protected from legal penalty.

The existence of the permit applications was revealed by FOIA requests by Oklahoma journalist Louise Red Corn, and shared Thursday in a web-based seminar held by the American Bird Conservancy (ABC). The 102.5-megawatt Shiloh IV Wind project applied for its take permit in March 2012, and the other three projects have applied in the last six months.

Notable by their absence from the list of applications, noted ABC's Kelly Fuller during the seminar, are the Altamont Pass wind area and Los Angeles Department of Water and Power's Pine Tree Wind Farm, both of which have existing eagle death tolls -- a considerable toll over the last three decades at Altamont, with an average of 67 eagles a year meeting their end due to collisions with those turbines in Alameda County. Applicant Alta East made the papers recently over that facility's first-ever allowed take of California condors.

ReWire hasn't yet learned how many eagles the four applicants are seeking permission to take over the course of their permits, nor whether they involve bald or golden eagles or both. Until the FWS signs off on those permits, there will likely be some disagreement between the developers and the agency over actual numbers. FWS historically tends toward higher estimates of injury and mortality than developers suggest.

Of the 14 take permit applications nationwide, the first to be approved will likely be Osage Wind, on the Osage Nation's Reservation near Tulsa, Oklahoma. That project's owner, Wind Capital, applied for its take permit in October 2012. Wind Capital is asking permission to kill three bald eagles per year over the project's 40-year lifespan. If that permit comes through as expected, it'll be the first wind turbine-related eagle take permit in U.S. history, according to ABC, and would be approved over the vociferous objections of the Osage Nation, which is on record as saying a single eagle mortality at the project is one too many.

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About the Author

Chris Clarke is a natural history writer and environmental journalist currently at work on a book about the Joshua tree. He lives in Joshua Tree.
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This is not a real issue. Not one developer will be prosecuted whether or not they are given their desired permits. Altamont, Pine Tree, they both have been making headlines for years, decades. Agencies once were set up to protect environments and species, this is no longer true. Today's world and powers to be claim what people want to hear when they need to, yet set in place a chain of events that will inevitably remove the beauty from our planet. Lets face it, this "technology" is archaic, our ability far surpasses this, but jobs are needed for those without knowledge, intellect and common strengths, so governments abroad have picked their winner, wind, and their loser, wildlife. What is unfortunate, the longer we travel down this path, the clearer the painting becomes that we the people no longer have a voice, and policies are set in place as needed to acheive their goals. Peace to those creatures who have lost their homes, families, and or lives....

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Lets make this very clear. These are permits to Kill eagles, thousands of them. It is long overdue for some accountability for any wind industry or FWS representative that attempts to defraud communities with bogus information. Let's look at how the "incidental take permit" really works. If a "take permit" is given to kill one bald eagle then 50 could die because there is no wind industry oversight and they won't tell you about the other 49, just like they haven't told the world about all the eagles that have been slaughtered in Texas by turbines. But even if by some great stretch of one's imagination that these folks were to be honest, if one dead eagle is found then many others will have died because they never come close to finding them all. At Altamont mortality studies found 10.8 dead eagles a year but the death toll estimates were 75-116 eagles every year. So if any FWS or wind industry employees/reports do not disclose that many more eagles will die than what the permit is for, they should be cuffed because they will be lying to you and it is clearly attempted fraud.
If population estimates are given do not believe them because I have not seen an accurate one yet. If any industry or FWS representative claims these turbines "may kill" or "possibly could" slap the hand cuffs on them because once again they are engaging in total deception. They know these turbines kill every flying species that uses the same habitat. They know this from decades of picking up bodies under wind turbines. Remember what I have said because the one condor kill permit the FWS is handing out will means many more are going to be killed.
People need to stop paying so much attention to what is happening in other countries like Syria,Turkey, and Lybia and start paying attention to what is happening here at home. Pay attention to what your hundreds of billions in tax dollars have been supporting....... Rigged studies to hide a horrendous avian mortality problem, rigged studies to hide cumulative impact to species, rigged studies to hide declining property values, rigged studies to hide the infra-sound problems, embellished energy projections, influential people paid off, rigged renewable portfolio standards, laws changed to help perpetuate their fraud, and millions suckered in with false hope. All this for what will always be just a small supplement to the grid.

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I will also add these terrible wind industry facts. Many condors (1985) and whooping cranes are known to have disappeared soon after wind turbines were placed in their habitats. The 2013 free flying whooping crane population should now be over 450 but it has rapidly died off since 2006. The latest grossly incompetent FWS population estimates claim that 178-362 of these cranes now exist. It also appears that the FWS, with their new "spread out count methodology", are including more than 30 captive bred whopping cranes released in Louisiana as part of this dying population. What this means is that there are probably fewer than 150 of the wild population of whooping cranes remaining.

The wind industry is also trying to get FWS kill or take permits for both of these species. With just single wind industry "take permit" for an eagle, condor or whooping crane, many times that number will die from every wind project with a permit because many fatalities go unreported and many others are never found.

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We are in the middle of one of the earth's big species die offs and we are affecting the weather of the whole planet. Do you think maybe 7 billion people (and a few of them particularly greedy) is a bit much?

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Here we go again...why don't instead we point fingers to all the other toxins we use that also kill eagles? http://www.habitatforhorses.org/seven-eagles-near-death-after-eating-horse-carcass/

Why only wind turbines? Couldn't some positive news be posted here about wind energy? Or must it all be doom and gloom?

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We do run positive news abut wind, such as advances in designs that offer lower bird mortality. And as our contacts in the utility-scale solar industry will tell you, we don't restrict our critical take to wind energy.

As for your question about other things that kill eagles, we answered that argument at some length here.

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In response to MJ, I might say that it's due to the MASSIVE GREENWASHING that these deadly boondoggles are getting from the unholy triumverate of corporate enviros, politicians and Big Energy (especially the real beneficiary of Big Wind, which is of course Big Fracked Gas - big ups, T. Boone Pickens, Chesapeake Energy and Carl Pope!).

If people weren't pretending Big Wind was clean, green, affordable and harmless, then it would be on the chopping block alongside coal, nukes, gas and other deadly energy we need to do away with asap. But since there are so many lies being spread about how great Big Wind is and how it will (ahem) save the planet (by killing big parts of it), Big Wind is expanding instead of disappearing, and that is a huge problem for our ecology, our economy, our climate and our democracy.

Every dime wasted on Big Wind and its Big Transmission (and it's Big Gas enablers) is a dime NOT spent on expanding energy efficiency, passive heating/cooling and rooftop solar power, so it is especially galling to have our endangered and threatened avian life being slaughtered before our eyes while REAL solutions are ignored, silenced and defunded.

Let's start with what works, helps, and doesn't kill, and if we still need expensive, deadly, wasteful Big Energy boondoggles, we can always bulldoze and dynamite the wilderness later.