ESI Energy’s wind turbines have killed more than 100 eagles

A US wind energy company has admitted to killing at least 150 bald eagles and golden eagles, most of which were fatally struck by wind turbine blades, federal prosecutors said.

ESI Energy pleaded guilty Tuesday to three charges of violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) after eagles died in three of its facilities in Wyoming and New Mexico, according to a statement from the Justice Department.

The MBTA prohibits the killing, capture, or transportation of protected migratory bird species without a permit.

“For more than a decade, ESI has broken those laws by catching eagles without obtaining or even seeking the necessary permits,” Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division said in the statement. declaration.

As part of a plea deal, ESI was sentenced to more than $8 million in fines and restitution and five years’ probation. The company has also agreed to implement up to $27 million in measures to minimize future injuries and deaths from eagles, prosecutors said without specifying what that would entail.

Prosecutors said ESI will pay $29,623 in the future for every bald or golden eagle killed by its turbine blades.

The company has three years to apply for permits for the inevitable killing of eagles, according to the statement.

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Court documents show that in March 2019, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, shortly after ESI decided to build wind turbines in Converse County, Wyo. the build, noting that up to 44 golden eagles and 23 bald eagles can collide with a turbine blade within the first five years.

ESI continued construction, court records said.

ESI has since acknowledged that at least 150 bald eagles and golden eagles have died in 50 of its 154 wind farms over the past decade and that 136 of the deaths occurred when the birds flew into a turbine blade, prosecutors said.

Rebecca Kujawa, president of ESI parent NextEra, criticized the government’s enforcement policies, saying some animal deaths are “inevitable” with wind turbines.

“The reality is that building a structure, operating a vehicle or flying an airplane carries the possibility that an eagle and other bird strikes could accidentally occur as a result of that activity,” Kujawa said in a statement. .

“Unfortunately, in defiance of many states and a number of federal court decisions, the federal government has attempted to criminalize unavoidable accidents related to bird strikes in wind turbines, while at the same time failing to prevent other activities that result in much larger numbers. of accidental eagle and other bird deaths.”

ESI and NextEra did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Washington Post on Saturday.

The bald eagle, which has been the national bird in the United States since the late 1700s, was removed from the endangered species list in 2007. But it still faces a number of threats and remains protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Such threats include collisions with man-made structures and vehicles, poisoning, electrocution and illegal shooting, the agency said.

Wind turbines are a known killer of numerous bird species, including eagles. At their tips, the blades can spin up to 200 mph. Research shows that between 140,000 and 328,000 birds are killed annually at monopole turbines in the United States, with a greater risk of death the higher the turbines are.

In 2017, a group at Oregon State University announced it was working to make wind turbines safer for eagles, using cameras to determine if someone is approaching the blades and, if so, trigger a deterrent using brightly colored facsimiles of people to make them go the other way.

“If we hit a generic bird, sad as that is, it’s not as important as hitting a protected golden eagle,” Roberto Albertani, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at the university, said in a statement at the time. That, he said, “would lead to the closure of a wind farm for a period of time, a fine for the operator, major loss of revenue and most importantly the loss of a member of a protected species.”

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