Senate Asked to Require Wind Energy Producers to Comply With Federal Laws as Part of Tax Grants for Renewable Energy
|Whooping Crane. By: Tom Grey
(Washington, D.C., December 16, 2010) American Bird Conservancy, the nation’s leading bird conservation organization, has sent a letter to key U.S. Senators urging them to include important new language in a renewable energy tax package being considered by the Senate. That language would require wind energy projects that are seeking federal grants to adopt the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Advisory Committee’s recommendations for reducing wildlife impacts from wind turbines and comply with the National Environmental Policy Act, Migratory Bird Treaty Act, Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, and Endangered Species Act.
The letter was sent to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and the chairman and ranking member of the Finance Committee, Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) as the Senate this week considers a tax package that may contain an extension of the Section 1603 Treasury Grant Program for renewable energy development.
“We don’t believe that American tax dollars should be used for corporations who don’t follow Federal wind energy guidelines or wildlife and environmental laws,” said ABC wind program coordinator, Kelly Fuller.
The National Wind Coordinating Committee – a collaboration of the wind industry, researchers, government agencies and nonprofit groups – estimates that, on average, 3.1 birds killed per megawatt of wind-generated power per year. At that rate of mortality (which ABC believes to be very conservative), bird deaths will rise to more than one million birds being killed by wind power every year, if the wind industry achieves the President’s goal for wind providing 20% of the country’s energy goals by 2030. These deaths will include eagles and other raptors, migratory songbirds, and declining species, unless effective, strong, siting, operational and compensatory mitigation measures are put into place now. In addition, birds such as sage-grouse are further at risk from habitat loss due to siting of wind farms in core breeding areas, and birds such as the endangered Whooping Crane are additionally at risk from collision with new power lines erected to service wind farms along their migratory pathways.
“Most Americans have heard that wind turbines kill birds, but they haven’t heard there are solutions to safeguard birds that aren’t fully used. Unless the grant program being considered for extension explicitly protects birds, our tax dollars will subsidize the deaths of songbirds, raptors, and other birds that Americans love. Voluntary compliance with guidelines and the law hasn’t worked before and we see no reason to expect that to change,” Fuller added.
ABC supports the development of alternative energy sources, including wind power, but wind projects need to a) be sited in a manner that avoids or minimizes harm to birds, b) employ best technology and management practices that reduce harm to birds, and c) incorporate mitigation measures that fully compensate for bird deaths and other impacts.
In addition to being beautiful and fascinating creatures, birds are eagerly watched by 48 million Americans in their backyards every year, and help generate about $36 billion annually to the U.S. economy through wildlife watching activities as well as provide an essential role to U.S. farming and forestry industries as pollinators and controllers of harmful insect pests on many important commercial crops.
“Making wind power bird friendly is not only imperative to protect our nation’s natural heritage, it is also not unreasonably expensive or difficult, and does not impose an unreasonable burden on wind energy producers,” said Fuller.
American Bird Conservancy (ABC) is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit membership organization whose mission is to conserve native birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. ABC acts by safeguarding the rarest species, conserving and restoring habitats, and reducing threats, while building capacity in the bird conservation movement.