by Todd Neeley DTN Staff Reporter
OMAHA (DTN) — If the American Bird Conservancy gets its way the wind industry that has flourished in Corn Belt states such as Iowa, Illinois and Indiana, would face regulation to prevent bird deaths.
The American Bird Conservancy filed its second petition since 2011 with the Department of the Interior Thursday. The group said in a news release Friday the new petition is based on additional information collected in the past four years that suggests the number of migratory birds killed, including many protected by the Endangered Species Act, could total between 1.4 million and 2 million once the industry completes a build out.
Wind energy has become an important investment to farmers and ranchers in states like Iowa and Texas, where wind turbines dotting the landscape produce more than 10,000 megawatts in each of those states.
More than $9.8 billion of capital has been invested in Iowa wind farms, according to the Iowa Wind Energy Association, and another $8 billion to $10 billion is expected to be invested in the next three to five years. In addition, the association said landowners in Iowa received about $16 million in annual lease payments in support of wind energy.
The American Bird Conservancy wants the federal government to establish a permitting process designed to protect migratory birds. The group claims in the petition that a permitting process would “afford the wind industry a degree of regulatory and legal certainty.”
Based on estimates from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the operation of 22,000 turbines led to deaths of some 440,000 birds in 2009. That included threatened and endangered species. Since then, other studies have estimated that up to 573,000 birds were killed in 2012.
“By 2030 or perhaps even earlier, a ten-fold increase in the number of wind turbines in the United States is expected, which together are projected to kill between 1.4 -2 million birds each year,” the ABC said in a statement. “ABC believes this number will be exceeded significantly, especially because these estimates do not include mortality at associated power lines and towers, which are also undergoing massive expansion and currently kill over 6.8 million birds annually.”
The bird conservancy group said wind energy poses a threat to various species of birds including birds of prey such as the bald eagle, golden eagle, Ferruginous hawk, Swainson's hawk, short-eared owl, and flammulated owl; endangered and threatened species such as the California condor, Kirtland's warbler, whooping crane, snail kite, marbled murrelet, Hawaiian goose, and Hawaiian petrel. Other species of concern include the Bicknell's thrush, Sprague's pipit, Cerulean warbler, oak titmouse, Lewis' woodpecker, Brewer's sparrow, Long-billed curlew, bay-breasted warbler, and blue-winged warbler.
“We recognize that properly sited and operated wind energy projects may be an important part of the solution to climate change, a contemporary challenge that indisputably poses a rapidly growing threat to species and ecosystems,” said Michael Hutchins, national coordinator of the American Bird Conservancy's Bird Smart Wind Energy Campaign.
“These species are impacted by existing wind energy projects and threatened by potential projects primarily through collisions with wind turbines and associated power lines and towers, and through loss or modification of essential habitat.”
Currently the wind industry is operating with voluntary regulatory guidelines. The petition filed by the ABC calls for “bird-smart” wind energy that requires independent, science-based risk assessment leading to careful siting, effective mitigation, independent, transparent post-construction monitoring of bird kills.
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