A US District Court in San Jose, California has ruled invalid a Department of the Interior regulation allowing wind energy and some other companies to kill bald and golden eagles for the next 30 years, in the name of “clean energy.” The American Bird Conservancy, a plaintiff in the suit brought against the so-called 30 year “eagle take” rule hailed the decision:
“We are pleased that the courts agreed with us that improper shortcuts were taken in the development of this rule,” said Dr. Michael Hutchins, Director of ABC's Bird Smart Wind Energy Program. “The court found that important laws meant to protect our nation's wildlife were not properly followed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, putting Bald and Golden Eagles at greater risk.”
The court wrote: “… substantial questions are raised as to whether the Final 30-Year Rule may have a significant adverse effect on bald and golden eagle populations.”
In particular, the courts cited a lack of compliance with the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA). "We're ready to work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to conduct the required NEPA analysis and formulate a better system to protect eagles from poorly-sited wind energy projects,” said Hutchins. “We must come up with a better system to assess the potential risks to birds and bats prior to a project's siting and construction and to track and mitigate project impacts post-construction.”
The ruling leaves in place the 1009 “eagle take” rule allowing five year licenses. The court held that the increase in the duration of the license to kill required a separate Environmental Impact Statement.
So this isn't a great victory for the birds; the wind power industrial magnates can go back to the generally sympathetic government and apply for a new five year exemption to kill birds while producing intermittent, and expensive government subsidized power, which requires a great deal of underpopulated area to to produce. But it is a mild step forward to sensible evaluation of the relative merits of different power sources.