Earlier today, the Fish & Wildlife Service released its new rule on the eagle "take" permit. In response, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) has issued a statement, in which AWEA's Director of Siting Policy John Anderson argues that "[t]his permit program promotes eagle conservation." Anderson adds that "Congress actually sanctioned it decades ago by specifically authorizing a permit program under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.” A few more key points worth highlighting:
- The new rule "will allow permittees, including wind farm operators, to provide conservation benefits for eagles while granting wind energy companies, and other potential permittees – such as oil and gas exploration and production, mining, military bases, airports, telecommunication tower developers, utility line owners, etc. – a degree of longer-term legal and financial certainty, which is important to the viability of any business."
- "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."
- "Fatalities of golden eagles at modern wind facilities represent less than 2 percent of all documented sources of human-caused eagle fatalities."
- "Wind energy already reduces carbon dioxide pollution by nearly 100 million tons per year in the United States, and expanding its development is one of the cheapest, fastest, most readily scalable ways available now to address climate change – which experts and the leading wildlife conservation groups widely view as the single greatest threat to eagles and other wildlife."
Also worth highlighting is the following language from the Department of Interior:
...this rulemaking is not expected to have any potentially significant environmental effects on future protection of eagles or other environmental resources. Similarly, the effects of this rule are not highly controversial as they mainly involve procedural alterations to regulatory permit provisions that are not anticipated to have any meaningful or significant environmental effects on eagle populations.
All permits will be closely monitored to ensure that allowable take numbers are not exceeded and that conservation measures are in place and effective over the life of the permit. Steps taken today will increase transparency and accountability by making annual reports and five-year compilations of eagle fatalities available to the public.
The bottom line is that wind power development - done in an environmentally responsible manner, of course - is a crucial part of this nation's efforts to move off carbon-based fuels which contribute to climate change, which destroy habitat, and which harm wildlife in a myriad number of ways. The goal should be to accelerate that (environmentally responsible) development, not to slow it down.