Environmental Protection

Bad News for Wind Farms

The Department of Justice announced Nov. 22 that Duke Energy Renewables Inc. pleaded guilty to violating the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act for birds killed at its wind projects in Wyoming.

The U.S. Department of Justice announced Nov. 22 that Duke Energy Renewables Inc., a subsidiary of Duke Energy Corp., based in Charlotte, N.C., pleaded guilty to violating the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act in connection with the deaths of protected birds, including golden eagles, at two wind projects in Wyoming. This is the first criminal enforcement of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act at wind projects, but it won't be the last.

The plea agreement calls for the company to pay $1 million in fines, restitution, and community service, and it was placed on probation for five years. It must implement an environmental compliance plan for preventing bird deaths at the company's four wind projects in Wyoming. "The company is also required to apply for an Eagle Take Permit which, if granted, will provide a framework for minimizing and mitigating the deaths of golden eagles at the wind projects," according to DOJ.

According to DOJ, 14 dead golden eagles and 149 other protected birds, including hawks, blackbirds, larks, wrens, and sparrows, were found by the company at its Campbell Hill and Top of the World wind projects from 2009 to 2013. These projects have a total of 176 wind turbines.

DOJ announced $400,000 of the penalty will be directed to the federally administered North American Wetlands Conservation Fund.

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