The Obama administration said Friday it will allow some companies to kill or injure bald and golden eagles for up to 30 years without penalty, an effort to spur development and investment in green energy while balancing its environmental consequences.
The change, requested by the wind energy industry, will provide legal protection for the lifespan of wind farms and other projects for which companies obtain a permit and make efforts to avoid killing the birds.
An investigation by The Associated Press earlier this year documented the illegal killing of eagles around wind farms, the Obama administration’s reluctance to prosecute such cases and its willingness to help keep the scope of the eagle deaths secret. The White House has championed wind power, a pollution-free energy intended to ease global warming, as a cornerstone of President Barack Obama’s energy plan.
In other areas, too, such as the government’s support for corn-based ethanol to reduce U.S. dependence on gasoline, the White House has allowed the green industry to do not-so-green things. Another AP investigation recently showed that ethanol has proven far more damaging to the environment than politicians promised and much worse than the government admits today.
Under the change announced Friday, companies would have to commit to take additional measures if they kill or injure more eagles than they have estimated they would, or if new information suggests that eagle populations are being affected. The permits would be reviewed every five years, and companies would have to submit reports of how many eagles they kill. Now such reporting is voluntarily, and the Interior Department refuses to release the information.
“This is not a program to kill eagles,” said John Anderson, the director of siting policy at the American Wind Energy Association. “This permit program is about conservation.”
I suppose one initial reaction this story might provoke for a conservative would be to say that this is good news. For once accidental wildlife death is not going to be used to harass and prosecute a business.
But the story just makes me really angry. There are plenty of other businesses that might somehow accidentally kill an eagle. Why should those property owners face the full weight of the law while anyone with a wind farm gets away with it?
Another worry that comes to mind, given how much environmentalists revere endangered species, is what this ruling tells us that our “environmentalist-friendly” administration might be willing to do for the sake of their green energy boondoggle. What else are they willing to sacrifice? After all, we are told that the eagle is endangered but that we have too many people on the planet.
In the meantime, remember that the Department of the Interior is opposing the Keystone pipeline because it might hurt wildlife.