As the Obama administration seeks to clear a path for more renewable energy projects, it has increasingly found itself caught between two staunch allies: the wind energy industry and environmental organisations. Tensions between both groups and the administration have risen since a new federal rule was announced this month allowing wind farms to lawfully kill bald and golden eagles under 30-year permits.
Conservation groups reacted with anger to the rule, saying it gives wind farms too much leeway to operate without sufficient environmental safeguards and does not consider the long-term impact on eagle populations.
A 30-year permit is like a blank check, said David Yarnold, president and chief executive of the National Audubon Society, which was involved in months of negotiations on the rule. Conservation groups said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service needlessly rejected an agreement, also endorsed by the wind industry, to develop more detailed regional plans that would set firm, research-based limits on how many eagles could be killed in a particular geographic area.
We put a historic deal on the table, and they didn’t have the vision to say yes, Mr. Yarnold said.
Eagles are migratory birds, he added. Having a regional plan that reflects how they live and where they travel just makes sense.
Federal wildlife officials defended the rule, which will take effect early next year, saying it sought to balance the practical considerations of long-term wind farm projects with the need to keep eagle populations stable.
While neither bald nor golden eagles are considered endangered the bald eagle was removed from the endangered species list in 2007 both birds are still afforded federal wildlife protections. It is illegal to kill or hunt them without a proper permit.
Since 2009, wind farms have been able to apply for five-year permits, allowing them to take meaning kill a certain number of eagles, so long as the farms demonstrate that they have undertaken adequate measures to keep the birds safe.
The new rule extends the maximum term of the permits to 30 years. It includes federal reviews every five years to assess whether sufficient measures are being taken to make sure eagles are being conserved. — New York Times News Service