Feb 132015

Here is the press release from the American Bird Conservancy:


Contact: Robert Johns, 202 888 7472, bjohns@abcbirds.org

Leading Bird Group Files Petition to Regulate the Wind Industry

(Washington, D.C., February 13, 2015) American Bird Conservancy (ABC) has filed a formal petition with the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) calling for the agency to establish new regulations governing the impacts of wind energy projects on migratory birds.

The ABC petition  was filed on February 12, 2015 and includes substantial revisions to an earlier petition filed by ABC in December 2011 that also called for wind industry regulatory action that would reduce the projected 1.4-2 million bird deaths expected to be caused by the industry when it reaches projected build out levels.

“This petition includes new information that further makes the case for wind industry regulation,” said Dr. Michael Hutchins, National Coordinator of ABC’s Bird Smart Wind Energy Campaign. “We have added examples of new science and prototype mechanisms that would make it possible to finally enforce the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA).”

A key provision of the ABC petition would have the Department of Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) establish a permitting process that would significantly improve the protection of birds covered by the MBTA and would afford the wind industry a degree of regulatory and legal certainty that cannot be provided in the absence of such a process.

“This is the second time we have petitioned for improvements on the permitting issue—this time with new and even stronger arguments-- and it appears that FWS is now starting a process that could lead to that becoming a reality,” Hutchins said in reference to FWS filing a Notice of Intent to take action, with the Office of Management and Budget this past week, on this issue.

“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,” Hutchins said.

But ABC said further that, if not done right, wind energy also poses a serious 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; and other species of special conservation concern such as the Bicknell’s Thrush, Sprague’s Pipit, Cerulean Warbler, Oak Titmouse, Lewis’s Woodpecker, Brewer’s Sparrow, Long-billed Curlew, Bay-breasted Warbler, and Blue-winged Warbler.

“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,” said Hutchins

Based on the operation of a mere 22,000 turbines, FWS estimated that at least 440,000 birds-- including threatened and endangered species—were being killed per year by wind turbines in 2009. Since then, another peer-reviewed study expanded that estimate to 573,000 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. 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.  Further, wind energy projects are expected to impact almost 20,000 square miles of terrestrial habitat and another 4,000 square miles of marine habitat.

The MBTA, Endangered Species Act (ESA), and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (BGEPA), prohibit “take” of migratory birds, endangered and threatened species, and Bald and Golden Eagles. (Federal regulations define the term “take” to include wounding or killing, or attempting to wound or kill.) Bald and Golden Eagles are protected under both MBTA and BGEPA, and many species listed under the ESA are also protected under the MBTA, such as Whooping Cranes, California Condors, Least Terns, Kirtland’s Warblers, Northern Aplomado Falcons, Roseate Terns, and Piping Plovers.

While the ESA and BGEPA provide mechanisms for FWS to regulate, and in some instances authorize, take of endangered and threatened species and Bald and Golden Eagles respectively, at present no such comparable mechanism exists under the MBTA to limit or authorize incidental take by wind power projects.

”In effect, the MBTA is not being enforced, except perhaps under very special circumstances,” said Hutchins. “This reality is particularly significant for the wind industry because wind energy projects will inevitably take birds protected under the MBTA.  In fact, because it is virtually impossible to operate a wind energy facility without killing or injuring at least some migratory birds, most operational wind energy projects are in ongoing violation of the MBTA, and are effectively breaking the law with impunity.”

In addition, federal officials are aware of other wind energy projects that are being planned that will also take migratory birds in violation of federal law. Many of those projects are located in or near Important Bird Areas (IBAs) or in major migratory bottlenecks, such as the south shore of Lake Erie or northern shores of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.

The wind industry is now operating under “voluntary” instead of mandatory regulatory guidelines. These optional operating sideboards have paved the way for widespread disregard of the legal mandates the FWS is entrusted to enforce.  The ABC petition supports “Bird-Smart” wind energy, which requires independent, science-based risk assessment leading to careful siting; effective mitigation; independent, transparent post-construction monitoring of bird kills; and compensation if public trust resources are being taken. Bird-Smart wind energy is therefore designed to reduce and redress any unavoidable bird mortality and habitat loss.

Apr 162012

FWS has proposed new regulations that would extend from five to 30 years the duration of programmatic permits that allow the taking of bald or golden eagles.

In the proposal, published Friday, April 13, FWS said:

In February 2011, we published draft Eagle Conservation Plan Guidance that provided information on how to prepare Eagle Conservation Plans and apply for eagle take permits. Many commenters recommended that we extend the term of the permit, as we are proposing to do with this rule. Since publication of the 2009 final rule, we have reviewed applications from proponents of renewable energy projects, such as wind and solar power facilities, for programmatic permits to authorize eagle take that may result from both the construction and ongoing operations of renewable energy projects. During our review, it became evident that the 5-year term limit imposed by the 2009 regulations (see 50 CFR 22.26(h)) needed to be extended to better correspond to the timeframe of renewable energy projects. We propose to amend the regulations to provide for terms of up to 30 years for programmatic permits. The maximum permit tenure for standard Sec. 22.26 permits would remain at 5 years.

"Programmatic take" of eagles "is defined at 50 CFR 22.3 as 'take that is recurring, is not caused solely by indirect effects, and that occurs over the long term or in a location or locations that cannot be specifically identified,' " the service noted.

The proposal was immediately attacked by the American Bird Conservancy, which said it would result in the deaths of more eagles from wind turbines. In a news release, ABC Wind Campaign Coordinator Kelly Fuller said, “It is simply irresponsible of [FWS] to propose granting 30-year take permits for birds such as eagles, which have populations that are still in a precarious state. Just three years ago, the FWS concluded in a published rulemaking that they shouldn’t grant permits for longer than five years 'because factors may change over a longer period of time such that a take authorized much earlier would later be incompatible with the preservation of the bald eagle or the golden eagle.' The underlying science has not changed, and there is no proven method for fixing a wind farm so that it no longer kills eagles, short of turning off the turbines."

The proposal's comment period ends May 14, but we wouldn't be surprised to see that extended.


US/Russia ice seal survey to begin as NMFS ponders peer reviews

The United States and Russia will conduct surveys for ice seals, the National Marine Fisheries Service has announced. In addition, the agency is asking for comments on peer reviews of the service's December 2010 proposal to list four subspecies of ringed seals and two distinct population segments (DPS) of bearded seals, including the Arctic ringed seal and the Beringia DPS of bearded seals, as threatened under the ESA.

NMFS "found substantial scientific disagreements in some peer and public comments received on the listing proposals, particularly relating to the sufficiency or accuracy of the model projections and analysis of future sea ice habitat for Arctic ringed seals and the Beringia DPS of bearded seals," the agency said in an April 5 press release.

Ice seal page (Go here for peer reviews)

AP story ("US, Russia to begin Bering Sea seal survey")