California sacrifices bald and golden eagles for “Green” energy

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By Bonner Cohen, Ph. D.

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In a major setback for the protection of wildlife, California Governor Gavin Newsom (D) signed a bill that will allow operators of wind and solar projects to slaughter bald and golden eagles, along with other raptors, under the guise of promoting “clean” energy in the state.

Senate Bill 147, sponsored by Sen. Angelique Ashby (D-Sacramento), and enthusiastically backed by the Democratic majority, will sanction the “incidental take” of wildlife in the pursuit of clearing the way for more green energy projects in the Golden State.

Sen. Ashby’s bill applies to solar photovoltaic projects, apartment infrastructure upgrades, and wind projects, along with associated electric transmission projects carrying high-voltage power from a facility located in the state to a point of junction with any California-based balancing authority.

The new law will “authorize the Department of Fish and Wildlife to issue a permit under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA) that would authorize ‘the take’ of a fully protected species resulting from impacts attributable to the implementation of specified projects if certain conditions are satisfied, including, among others, the conditions required for the issuance of an incidental take permit.”

“Incidental take” is a legal term specifying the kinds of harm that can be inflicted on wildlife during normal commercial operations. As noted by the California Globe (July 10), it includes shoot, shoot at, poison, wound, kill, capture, trap, collect, destroy, molest, or disturb. “Activities that directly or indirectly lead to ‘taking’ are prohibited without a permit, according to the American Eagle Foundation,” the Globe pointed out.

Yet under Sen. Ashby’s bill, that permit will be forthcoming for taxpayer-subsidized wind and solar projects, which is good for green-energy developers, but less so for birds at risk of being chopped up by spinning wind turbines.

The fate of eagles and other creatures appears to be of little interest to Sen. Ashby and her allies. So determined is she to grease the skids for wind and solar projects in California that she has declared her legislation an “urgency” bill, meaning it goes into effect immediately upon enactment.

Licensed to Kill

We all remember that James Bond was “licensed to kill,” and now 007 is the role model for green energy. But in his case, Bond was at least allowed to kill bad guys while Sen. Ashby’s bill authorizes the murder of birds that have the temerity to cross the path of planet-saving renewable energy.

And die they will.

Last year, the Washington Post reported on a case the Department of Justice had brought against wind developer ESI Energy.

“An American wind energy company has admitted to killing at least 150 bald and golden eagles, most of which were fatally struck by wind turbine blades,” federal prosecutors said, the Post reported. “ESI Energy pleaded guilty to three counts of violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) after eagles died at three of its facilities in Wyoming and New Mexico, according to a statement from the Justice Department.”

As part of its “mitigation plan,” ESI Energy will have to pay $29,623 for each bald or golden eagle killed by its turbine blades in the future. “ESI has since acknowledged that at least 150 bald and golden eagles at 50 of its 154 wind farms over the past decade and that 136 of the deaths occurred when the birds flew into a turbine blade,” prosecutors said,” the Post added.

Now that Gov. Newsom, an enthusiastic supporter of wind and solar power, has signed the bill, eagles in California will be facing hard times. The new law is a way for state agencies and green-energy developers to get around the annoying problem of birds being killed in large numbers as a direct result of California’s energy priorities.

And from the likes of the Sierra Club, the Nature Conservancy, and the Audubon Society, who would have the world believe they really care about protected species? Not a peep.


Bonner Cohen, Ph. D.

Bonner R. Cohen, Ph. D., is a senior policy analyst with CFACT, where he focuses on natural resources, energy, property rights, and geopolitical developments.

Articles by Dr. Cohen have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Investor’s Busines Daily, The New York Post, The Washington Examiner, The Washington Times, The Hill, The Epoch Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer,

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Miami Herald, and dozens of other newspapers around the country.

He has been interviewed on Fox News, Fox Business Network, CNN, NBC News, NPR, BBC, BBC Worldwide Television, N24 (German-language news network), and scores of radio stations in the U.S. and Canada.

He has testified before the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, and the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee. Dr. Cohen has addressed conferences in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, and Bangladesh.

He has a B.A. from the University of Georgia and a Ph. D. – summa cum laude – from the University of Munich.