Deathly Silence: Green Groups Complicit in Wind Industry’s Endangered Eagle Slaughter

So-called green groups that help cover up the wind industry’s rampant slaughter of birds and bats are just as guilty as those who directly profit from the carnage.

A fair proportion of their practised acquiescence is explained by bags of cash – aka helpful “donations” from outfits such as NextEra to the likes of the Sierra Club. But not all. Running silent is one thing, running interference is something altogether more sinister.

Robert Bryce lists the lid on a particularly toxic brand of virtue signalling hypocrisy.

America’s Biggest ‘Green’ Groups Love Wind Turbines, Not Eagles
Real Clear Energy
Robert Bryce
20 April 2022

I’m old enough to remember when environmentalists cared about protecting our birds, bats, and whales. Alas, concern about protecting our wildlife has been lost amid the headlong rush to cover the countryside with oceans of solar panels and forests of wind turbines in the hope that they will save us from climate change.

For proof of that, consider the reaction – or rather the lack of reaction – to this month’s prosecution of NextEra Energy by the Department of Justice for multiple violations of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act by America’s biggest “green” groups.

First, some background. As I explained in a recent article, Florida-based NextEra, the world’s biggest producer of renewable energy, was sentenced to probation and $8 million in fines and restitution after the company pled guilty to three misdemeanor violations of the MBTA for killing at least 150 Bald and Golden Eagles at 50 of its wind projects in eight states. The company must also implement a plan to protect eagles which could cost another $27 million.

The prosecution is a big deal. It appears to be the first federal legal action against a wind company under the MBTA since 2014. Furthermore, the Justice Department’s April 5 press release on the agreement with the company reads like an indictment: It says that NextEra repeatedly ignored warnings from federal authorities that its proposed wind projects in Wyoming would kill eagles. Despite the warnings, the company went ahead with the projects. The press release says the company showed “blatant disregard” for federal law. A close reading of the press release shows that the company repeatedly ignored warnings from federal officials about the deadly effect its wind project would have on eagles. Indeed, it’s clear to me that the company should have been charged with felony violations of the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.

I’ve been reporting on the MBTA for three decades. Over the past 10 years or so, I’ve been reporting on the wind industry’s deadly impact on our most-iconic species, including Bald and Golden Eagles, as well as our bats. It’s beyond dispute that building more wind turbines means more of our eagles, birds, and bats will be killed.

But none of these facts appear to matter to America’s biggest climate activist groups. The Sierra Club didn’t issue a press release on the matter. Nor did the National Audubon SocietyNatural Resources Defense Council, or Environmental Defense Fund. The silence of the NGO-Industrial Complex shows that the biggest “green” groups in America are completely in the tank when it comes to renewable energy. They aren’t concerned about preserving rural landscapes. Nor are they concerned about the ongoing slaughter of our wildlife by the wind industry. Instead, they are focused almost solely on the issue of climate change mitigation. In their view, it seems, any wind turbine is a good wind turbine. Or put another way: we have to kill our birds and bats in order to save them.

The same attitude seems to prevail when it comes to protecting the endangered North American Right Whale. As I explained in these pages back in January, two foreign companies, Avangrid Renewables (a subsidiary of Spanish utility Iberdrola) and Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners are pushing the Vineyard Wind project, an 800-megawatt facility that would put dozens of massive wind turbines smack in the middle of right whale habitat. A study published last year by the New England Aquarium, NOAA Fisheries, and the Center for Coastal Studies found that 327 unique right whales have been spotted in the waters where the Vineyard Wind project is planned. That’s a huge number given that there are fewer than 500 North Atlantic right whales left on the planet.

Fortunately, a few groups are speaking out for wildlife. The American Bird Conservancy has been on the right side of MBTA enforcement for years. On April 7, the group’s president, Mike Parr, issued a blistering response to NextEra’s claims that it had “never sited a wind turbine knowing an eagle would fly into it nor have we taken any action in disregard of federal law.” Parr responded, saying “the company seems to want to blame the laws and the birds for its violations…Blaming the birds is like directing cars to drive on the sidewalk and then blaming pedestrians for being run over. It is well-known that if you put turbines in eagle habitat, there will be fatalities.”

I interviewed Parr back in 2020 for a piece I wrote in Forbes about a Bald Eagle that was killed by a wind turbine in Ohio. At that time, Parr told me that his group is not anti-wind. Instead, he said it is seeking a “middle-ground” on regulations. But he also said that “The wind industry could prevent a lot of these bird kills, but they don’t…The regulations have all been undone in their favor and against protection.” Indeed, the prosecution of NextEra, while welcome, shows yet again, that the wind industry is still getting favorable treatment from federal regulators.

But it’s not just the big activist groups who are disregarding the slaughter of our wildlife. Eugene Robinson, a columnist for the Washington Post, published a column on April 18 in which he, in effect, defended NextEra. He wrote, “Using wind turbines to generate electricity, meanwhile, has a carbon footprint far smaller than that of coal, natural gas or even solar panels. I hate losing a single bald eagle. But I would hate even more losing our singular, endangered planet.”

Robinson, like the NGO-Industrial Complex, is ignoring the fact that NextEra acted deliberately and put its wind turbines in the middle of known eagle habitat so it could collect more subsidies. As the DOJ explained, NextEra “received hundreds of millions of dollars in federal tax credits for generating electricity from wind power at facilities that it operated, knowing that multiple eagles would be killed and wounded without legal authorization, and without, in most instances, paying restitution or compensatory mitigation.”

Furthermore, while the DOJ says NextEra killed 150 eagles, that number represents only a fraction of the actual death toll. The DOJ’s prosecution only focuses on NextEra’s operations in eight states and it only counts the bird carcasses that have been found and determined to have been killed by turbines. That tally doesn’t include the tens of thousands of turbines operated by other companies. Furthermore, biologists don’t search the areas around wind turbines every day, and many of the birds killed by turbines are carried away by scavengers. Back in 2013, Joel Pagel, one of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s top raptor biologists, told me that the number of fully documented cases of eagles being killed by wind turbines represents “an absolute minimum” of the actual number.

Wind turbines are also taking a deadly toll on bats, which are important pollinators and insectivores. A 2020 study by biologist K. Shawn Smallwood estimated turbines are killing some 2.2 million bats in the U.S. per year.

Robinson’s column in the Washington Post rhymes with that of other apologists for Big Wind who are eager to dismiss the industry’s subsidized slaughter of our bats and our most-iconic birds. Among their most-common excuses are that “it’s only a few eagles,” or “cats kill lots of birds.” These excuses are nonsense on stilts. Imagine the outcry if the oil and gas industry was killing our eagles at the same rate the wind industry is. Furthermore, house cats are not killing our eagles. Wind turbines are. And the more turbines get built, the more eagles will be killed.

I’m a proud birdwatcher and have been for more than 30 years. Over the past nine months, I have seen both the Bald Eagle and Golden Eagle in the wild. This spring, I’ve seen the endangered Golden-cheeked Warbler and other warblers here in Austin, including a confusion of Nashville Warblers in our yard. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 is one of our oldest wildlife laws. I’m glad that the Department of Justice and the Fish and Wildlife Service are enforcing it even though America’s biggest NGOs don’t seem to care.

Their execrable silence makes me long for the old days when environmental groups cared for, you know, the environment.
Real Clear Energy

About stopthesethings

We are a group of citizens concerned about the rapid spread of industrial wind power generation installations across Australia.

Comments

  1. Jim Wiegand - Wildlife Biologist says:

    I had previously stated that whatever Shawn Smallwood writes, you can add ten times the mortality to it because his research is biased garbage.

    With bats it could be thousands times because over a 20 year span the research at Altamont (using absurd 30-90 day search cycles) was so poorly conducted, that only a handful of bats were ever reported being killed.
    This is period of time in which tens of thousands of bats were likely killed. Of course , not too hard to figure out when thousands of opportunistic gulls, ravens and other scavengers are patrolling Altamont daily, bat carcasses quickly disappear.

    In 2009 a hidden and unpublicized study was conducted at Altamont. For several months around a few turbines, using search areas 1/3 smaller than normal and with 48 hour search intervals, this study found close to as many bat fatalities as in the entire 30 year history of Altamont.

    All this was hidden.

  2. Jim Wiegand - Wildlife Biologist says:

    “Wind turbines are also taking a deadly toll on bats, which are important pollinators and insectivores. A 2020 study by biologist K. Shawn Smallwood estimated turbines are killing some 2.2 million bats in the U.S. per year.”

    Whatever Shawn Smallwood writes, you can add ten times the mortality to it because his research it biased garbage. I could write a book on all the fatal flaws in his research. I have yet to see a legitimate study from this guy.

    For those that are not aware, he’s the one that came up with the research showing 60-70% mortality reductions with the new modern turbines at Altamont. What he hid was that search areas for the huge turbines, 200 ft taller and with far longer blades had been disproportionately reduced to search area sizes similar to those used with the tiny turbines. He’s been pulling this sort of crap in every study.

  3. Don’t forget about all the insects being destroyed by wind and solar. They are an essential part of the food chain.

      • Peter Pronczak says:

        FYI
        I may be wrong but I thought the University of New England, Armidale NSW a few years ago was to do a study into insect turbine deaths, but can find nothing.
        Their Insect Ecology Lab states in part, “Specifically we are answering questions relating to the impacts climate change will have on insect ecology, behaviour and physiology, insect community structure along environmental gradients, and insect-plant interactions.”

        A Prof Gisela Kaplan wrote a book on the Australian Magpie but didn’t mention brown & white ones. I’ve seen two, 1 in south-east NSW & north-west VIC.
        Maggies are incredible birds & wild ones are easily tamed.
        Some years ago a pair moved closed after I started feeding them – not recommended but cheese was a gourmet delight. They hatched 5 young, unusual; 4 when wild food abundant.
        After being interstate for a week on returning the male arrived with a young with netting & stick entangling its feet. The male flew off & the young remained as I grasped the stick, cradled the bird to the ground & cut the tangle away. It remained placid on its back until done then few off.
        There was communication between all three of us.
        They don’t appear to like crested pigeons. Perhaps because the only sounds they make is with their wings; they will slap together at peak wing rise in fright. But they will leave fledged young in the care of Noisy Miners even though they compete for food.
        The suburban Maggie pair here usually answer if I warble-greet, but they only rear 1 young.

    • Jim Wiegand - Wildlife Biologist says:

      Amen

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