Obama Administration Exempts Wind Power From Consequences For Slaughter Of Birds


The wind farm 5 miles southwest of Tripp are spinning with the winds on Wednesday June 10. (Matt Gade/Republic)

Back in 2011 Obama-appointed U.S. Attorney Tim Purdon tried to prosecute a group of oil companies operating in North Dakota over 28 dead ducks.

The ducks were found after a months-long investigation by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, which probably could have found about the same number of dead water fowl along the state’s highways. Purdon’s charges would have held the oil companies legally responsible for illegal takings under the Migratory Birds Treaty Act. They ultimately weren’t successful, and the ridiculous and transparently political attempt at prosecution got Purdon, who ended up stepping down early from his appointed position, named “dodo of the year.”

Now contrast that treatment of the oil and gas industry with the Obama administration giving the wind energy industry a pass on slaughtering thousands of birds per year:

The Obama administration is revising a federal rule that allows wind-energy companies to operate high-speed turbines for up to 30 years, even if means killing or injuring thousands of federally protected bald and golden eagles.

Under the plan announced Wednesday, companies could kill or injure up to 4,200 bald eagles a year without penalty — nearly four times the current limit. Golden eagles could only be killed if companies take steps to minimize the losses, for instance, by retrofitting power poles to reduce the risk of electrocution.

Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe said the proposal will “provide a path forward” for maintaining eagle populations while also spurring development of a pollution-free energy source that’s intended to ease global warming, a cornerstone of President Barack Obama’s energy plan.

Just so we’re clear, 28 dead ducks – common ducks, too, like mallards – gets oil companies hauled into federal court by a federal prosecutor.

But 4,200 dead bald eagles?

That’s, uh, different. Or something.

Which isn’t to say that I think this change in policy is bad. I don’t think wind turbines are nearly the risk to bird populations that some critics say it is. Maybe this exemption makes perfect sense.

But there sure seems to be a double standard between wind energy and the oil/gas industry, and that’s wrong.