A company that runs wind farms was fined $8 million this week after its wind turbines killed more than 100 eagles.
On Wednesday, the Associated Press reported that “NextEra Energy subsidiary ESI Energy pleaded guilty to three counts of violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act” in federal court. The company was charged for the deaths of eagles at its wind farms in Wyoming and New Mexico. NextEra and ESI were also responsible for harming eagles across eight different states, the AP reported:
In addition to those deaths, golden and bald eagles were killed at wind farms affiliated with ESI and NextEra since 2012 in eight states, prosecutors said: Wyoming, California, New Mexico, North Dakota, Colorado, Michigan, Arizona and Illinois. The birds are killed when they fly into the blades of wind turbines. Some ESI turbines killed multiple eagles, prosecutors said.
As a result of their admission of guilt, ESI will have to pay a fine of $8 million and spend $27 million on projects designed to increase safety for eagles and other birds around the wind farms in the aforementioned states over the next five-year probationary period.
“For more than a decade, ESI has violated (wildlife) laws, taking eagles without obtaining or even seeking the necessary permit,” Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division said in a statement.
Under the plea agreement, ESI will also “pay $29,623 per dead eagle” for future killings. According to the AP, wildlife experts expect there to be additional losses even with the anticipated safety precautions.
To that extent, NextEra President Rebecca Kujawa issued a statement saying the company disagrees “with the government’s underlying enforcement activity.”
“Building any structure, driving any vehicle, or flying any airplane carries with it a possibility that accidental eagle and other bird collisions may occur,” Kujawa added.
Kujawa is correct that many structures pose potentially greater threats to birds than wind turbines. A 2020 AP fact-check reported that millions of birds are killed each year from structures other than wind turbines:
Studies find that wind turbines kill an average of 230,000 birds a year in North America, says the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The number will grow as more turbines are deployed.
Glass windows in buildings kill an estimated 599 million per year and vehicles, about 214 million a year, the agency says. Altogether, the agency estimates that wind turbines are responsible for 1 in 14,000 bird deaths. So turbines are an additional threat to birds, if a comparatively small one.
While that may be true, The Daily Wire has previously reported that wind turbines specifically are the most “threatening form of green energy” to wildlife, according to the pro-avian welfare non-profit, the National Audubon Society. Wind farms are often placed in areas that are either home to birds or in the path of major migratory flight routes.
The Daily Wire also noted in 2020 that while “companies have implemented some methods to curtail the bird deaths, such as radar systems to detect incoming flocks, none of them have exactly been proven and do not account for individual birds, such as pelicans.”