Today, U.S. Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), top Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee, made the following statement regarding the U.S. Department of Justice's (DOJ) announcement of a $1 million plea agreement with Duke Energy for killing more than a dozen federally-protected eagles and more than 100 other protected birds at two of the company's wind farms in Wyoming. This is the first time that DOJ has pursued a case involving a wind energy producer under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA). There have been at least seven charges against oil and gas producers since 2009 and several prosecutions against electric utility companies - particularly from bird deaths caused by power lines.
In January, Vitter and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) wrote a letter to DOJ highlighting how they have charged certain oil and gas producers and power companies for violations of the MBTA, but not wind energy producers who have done the same thing. Their letter also shined a light on Federal officials allowing a wind energy farm in southeastern Minnesota to apply for a permit to allow for the death of bald eagles, which has the potential to kill between eight and fifteen bald eagles each year. DOJ responded last Friday, the same day it reached the plea agreement with Duke Energy. Click here to read more. Click here to read DOJ's response.
"I can't help but notice that DOJ waited to respond to Senator Alexander's and my request until the same day it reached a plea agreement with Duke Energy," said Vitter. "It looks like DOJ is making an example out of this particular case to shift the focus away from the Administration's bias of using the Migratory Bird Treaty Act to go after oil, gas and other businesses. We definitely don't want to see any sort of energy providers killing federally-protected birds indiscriminately, but we also don't want to see politically motivated actions by DOJ. The instances of wind energy's favoritism have been so egregious under this Administration, and DOJ's settlement and response still don't explain the Administration's obvious bias. We'll have a lot more questions on their process."
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimated annual bird mortality from wind energy production to be approximately 440,000 in its fiscal year 2013 budget justification. The Administration has allowed numerous wind, solar, and other businesses to apply for permits to kill migratory birds, including eagles. The Administration has also recently proposed extending the term of the permits from 5 years to 30 years.