Interior Finalizes Longer Eagle Kill Permits for Wind Farms

David Duprey/AP File Photo

The Interior Department has finalized a controversial regulation that authorizes permits as long as 30 years for wind farms to kill golden and bald eagles.

A major conservation group quickly slammed the rule that lengthens the current five-year permitting for the unintentional deaths of eagles caused by wind farms and other facilities.

"Instead of balancing the need for conservation and renewable energy, Interior wrote the wind industry a blank check," said Audubon President and CEO David Yarnold.

National Journal covered the rule and the controversy around it Thursday.

Wind industry officials say their industry poses little threat to eagle populations and that the permits will provide regulatory certainty to developers of wind farms and various other types of projects.

"The wind industry does more to address its impacts on eagles than any of the other, far greater sources of eagle fatalities known to wildlife experts, and we are constantly striving to reduce these impacts even further," the American Wind Energy Association said Friday.

"In fact, the wind industry has taken the most proactive and leading role of any utility-scale energy source to minimize wildlife impacts in general, and specifically for eagles, through constantly improving siting and monitoring techniques," the group said.

But several conservation groups have been battling the measure, and Yarnold, the Audubon CEO, vowed that the fight will continue even though the measure has been finalized.

"It's outrageous that the government is sanctioning the killing of America's symbol, the Bald Eagle," he said.

"Audubon will continue to look for reasonable, thoughtful partners to wean America off fossil fuels because that should be everyone's highest priority. We have no choice but to challenge this decision, and all options are on the table," Yarnold said.

The rule text touts conservation provisions in the regulation.

"The permits must incorporate conditions specifying additional measures that may be necessary to ensure the preservation of eagles, should monitoring data indicate the need for the measures," it states.

The regulation will "facilitate the responsible development of renewable energy and other projects designed to operate for decades, while continuing to protect eagles consistent with our statutory mandates," the rule states.

In a statement released by the Interior Department Friday, Secretary Sally Jewell defended the rule as a way to bolster alternative energy production. "Renewable energy development is vitally important to our nation's future," Jewell said, adding: "But it has to be done in the right way. "The changes in this permitting program will help the renewable energy industry and others develop projects that can operate in the longer term." 

The rule was unveiled Friday and will be published in Monday's Federal Register.

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