A wind power company pleaded guilty last week to killing at least 150 eagles on its wind farm and was ordered to pay a fine and 8 8 million in recovery, federal prosecutors say.
ESI Energy, a wholly-owned subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources, was also sentenced to five years in prison, at which point it must follow an eagle management plan, after being found guilty on three counts of violating migratory bird contract laws on Tuesday.
The ESI has acknowledged that at least 150 Tuck and Golden Eagles have died in its facilities since 2012, and that 136 of those deaths have been “positively determined to be responsible for the eagle’s injury by wind turbine blades,” the judiciary said in a statement. .
Of the 154 wind farms that the company operates in the United States, 50 have died, the Justice Department said.
The agency failed to take steps to protect the eagles or to obtain the necessary permissions when documenting or predicting the eagle’s death, the judiciary said. By not taking these steps, prosecutors say, ESI “has gained a competitive advantage.”
U.S. Attorney Philip A. of the Eastern District of California. “This lawsuit and the replacement it ensures will protect the environmentally important and glorious natural resources of our bald eagle and golden eagle population,” Talbert said in a statement.
The president of NextEra, Rebecca Kuzawa, said in a statement that she did not agree with the federal government’s policy because “the reality is that there is a risk of eagles and other accidents while constructing a structure, operating a vehicle, or flying an aircraft.” Birds can collide. “
“We have a long-standing and well-established reputation for protecting our environment and positively coexisting and supporting wildlife around our facilities,” said Ms. Kuzawa. “And we never installed a wind turbine that would fly an eagle in it, but we did not take any action in violation of federal law.”
The agency has agreed to spend up to $ 27 million on “additional eagle death and injury reduction” measures, prosecutors say. NextEra spokesman Steven Stenzel said there was no immediate word on how the money would be spent.
The case comes as a bald eagle, a symbol of the nation whose resurgence is considered one of the greatest conservation stories of the twenty-first century, faces a new threat: lead poisoning.
By the middle of the 20th century, all but a few hundred eagles were presumed dead, most of them dying from the widespread use of the synthetic pesticide DDT. Efforts to ban and preserve DDT in 1972 helped restore the population. The bald eagle was removed from endangered species law protection in 2007 and its estimated population has increased to 316,700 by 2019.
But researchers this year found that the 1,200 eagles they tested, about half of them repeatedly came in contact with lead, which could lead to death and slower population growth. Scientists believe that the primary source of lead was ammunition used by hunters, who shot animals that were later killed by eagles.
Julia Ponder, professor and associate dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Minnesota, says protecting eagles has become a “challenging situation”, especially when it comes to wind turbines, whose research focuses on raptor medicine and surgery.
“I would have liked it if it was black and white, but it’s not,” he said.
Although wind turbines can harm eagles and other birds, they are also an alternative form of energy that is cleaner than fossil fuels, contributing to planet warming, he said.
The blade tips of a wind turbine can rotate at speeds of up to 200 miles per hour, enough to kill any bird instantly, Professor Ponder said.
A 2013 study found that 140,000 to 328,000 birds die each year at monopole turbines in the United States.
Roberto Albertani, a professor of mechanical engineering at Oregon State University, said in 2017 that he and his team had developed a system that sought to make wind turbines safer for the Eagles.
Whether it’s birds approaching the blade to scare birds, triggering swollen tubes on the ground, or “wind dancer” figures, often seen at car dealerships, the use of cameras to intimidate birds has been called for, Professor Albertani said in one. Presentation last year.
The Eagles seem to be “disturbed by ethnographic statistics.”
Professor Ponder said some researchers are looking at using audio signals to keep birds away from turbines. Others are working on a detection system that will turn off a turbine when approaching an eagle – a measure that is effective for power companies, but can be expensive.
“These are really complex questions,” he said. “And we have to work to find the right questions to ask and their answers.”