In late November, the U.S. Department of Justice announced a settlement on the prosecution of Duke Energy’s wind developments in Wyoming. This was in connection with the deaths of 14 Golden Eagles and 149 other protected birds, including hawks, wrens, larks, blackbirds, and sparrows. The settlement involved $1 million in fines and mitigation actions. This is the first prosecution in the U.S. of a wind company in connection with bird mortality pertaining to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA).
According to related court documents, Duke Energy’s Renewables failed to make all reasonable efforts to build the projects in a way that would avoid the risk of bird deaths due to collisions with turbine blades, despite prior warnings about this issue from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).
In March of last year, the USFWS published voluntary operating and siting guidelines for the wind industry, but there has yet to be established a federal mandatory wind project permitting system to ensure that wind developments be well sited, operated, and mitigated, with paid permits to cover costs. In the absence of such mandatory standards, the prevention of damaging wind development is difficult.
For more information on the Duke Energy case, see the Department of Justice press release here: