The dark side of green energy has taken an un-American twist.
A renewable energy company that operates wind turbines throughout the United States pled guilty to killing 150 protected eagles in federal court on Tuesday.
ESI Energy LLC admitted to three violations of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act in its plea, namely killing bald and golden eagles through the operation of wind energy turbines in New Mexico and Wyoming.
The birds died of blunt force trauma after colliding with wind turbine blades at the green energy farms.
In its settlement with the government, ESI further admitted to killing 150 bald and golden eagles with its wind turbines across the country since 2012.
Of those 150 deaths, 92 protected eagles were killed at ESI wind farms in California, according to U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert for the Eastern District of California.
ESI was sentenced to pay $1,861,600 in fines and $6,210,991 in restitution.
The company agreed to pay up to an additional $27 million for an Eagle Management Plan at its facilities to prevent further deaths of protected birds.
Edward Grace, Assistant Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Office of Law Enforcement, criticized ESI for refusing to work with the service, even as America’s national birds were killed at its turbine farms for years.
“This agreement holds ESI and its affiliates accountable for years of unwillingness to work cooperatively with the Service and their blatant disregard of wildlife laws, and finally marks a path forward for the benefit of eagles and other wildlife resources entrusted to the Service’s stewardship,” said Grace.
The bald eagle was delisted as an endangered species in 2007, with conservation measures succeeding in restoring much of its historic populations throughout the United States.
Killing bald eagles has been illegal under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act since 1918.
ESI was required by law to seek eagle take permits for each bird it killed under the law, a legal process the company declined to take.
ETP’s would have required ESI to mitigate the hazards to eagles at each of its facilities.
In a statement provided to NPR, the president of ESI’s parent company criticized the federal government for prosecuting the wind company’s killing of eagles.
“We disagree with the government’s underlying enforcement activity,” said NextEra’s Rebecca Kujawa.
“Building any structure, driving any vehicle or flying any airplane carries with it a possibility that accidental eagle and other bird collisions may occur.”
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