San Diego Wind Farms Get Extended Legal Protection On Eagle Deaths
Monday, December 9, 2013
Aired 12/9/13 on KPBS News.
Wind energy farms in San Diego can now get a 30-year permit to kill eagles accidentally without penalty. A San Diego conservationist says the ruling puts the region’s declining eagle population at risk.
Wind farms in San Diego County and across the nation can now get a 30-year permit to unintentionally kill bald or golden eagles with their spinning turbine blades. It's an effort by the U.S. Interior Department to spur green energy growth while balancing its environmental consequences.
The previous permit was issued every five years.
The new rule requires wind farms to increase safety measures if eagle populations are being affected or if they kill or injure more eagles than estimated. Without the permit, companies could receive large fines.
Kelly Fuller, a consultant with the Protect Our Communities Foundation said the ruling especially puts San Diego’s declining golden eagle population at risk.
“Because when they hunt, they’re not paying to attention to what’s immediately in front of them in the air, because they’re looking down at the ground -- they’re looking for what they’re hunting," Fuller said.
Fuller urged the use of solar in San Diego County instead of wind farms.
"We have abundant sunshine here," Fuller said. "We can be doing rooftop solar, we can be doing energy efficiency, and there is no need for us to be building these destructive projects that are going to kill eagles and harm our beautiful backcountry."
The Fish and Wildlife Service said the new rule enables more efficient monitoring of long-term environmental effects of renewable energy projects.
"Our goal is to ensure that the wind industry sites and operates projects in ways that best minimize and avoid impacts to eagles and other wildlife," the agency said in a statement.
A recent federal study shows turbines have killed 67 eagles nationwide since 2008. But Fuller said that number is underestimated because wind farms self-report eagle deaths.