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Category — Avian mortality (“Cuisinarts of the air”)

“Killing Wildlife In the Name of Climate Change” (Part I: The Double Standard)

[Editor note: Robert Bryce, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, is a leading researcher and disseminator of the problems of ‘green’ energy. His February 25, 2014, testimony before the Senate Committee on the Environmental and Public Works follows today and tomorrow.]

The focus of this hearing is on the economic benefits of ecosystems and wildlife and how they “are valuable to a wide range of industries,” including tourism. The purpose is also to examine “how the Administration is preparing to protect” ecosystems “in a changing climate.” The facts show that federally subsidized efforts that are being undertaken to, in theory, address climate change, are damaging America’s wildlife.

Furthermore, those same efforts have, for years, been allowing an entire industry to avoid federal prosecution under some of America’s oldest wildlife laws. My discussion will focus largely on the wind-energy sector, an industry that has been getting federal subsidies since 1992, and the impact that the wind-energy business is having on wildlife. [1] There are two key questions that must be addressed:

* Are all energy providers getting equal treatment under the law when it comes to wildlife protection? The answer to that question is no. * Is widespread deployment of wind turbines an effective climate-change strategy? The answer, again, is no. [Part II of Bryce post tomorrow]

Part I; Energy companies are not being treated equally when it comes to enforcement of federal wildlife laws. I have been writing about the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act since the late 1980s. [2] In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the US Fish and Wildlife Service brought hundreds of enforcement cases against the oil and gas industry in Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico, for violations of those laws. And rightly so. [Read more →]

March 19, 2014   5 Comments

Wind Turbine Bird Killings, Disinformation Continue in California (Golden eagles, bald eagles, and more)

“The grim reality is that fewer than 500 golden eagles remain in California. When will authorities wake up to windpower?”

The golden eagle is a vital species in rapid decline, and most of this demise has been relatively recent. Although it has never been publically acknowledged, the primary reason has been the development of wind energy in the middle of the eagle’s foraging habitats.

Ironically, during this golden eagle population crash, bald eagle populations have increased dramatically because, up to now, their habitats have been spared the ravages of wind development. This too will soon change, however, as wind energy installations are built in their wetland habitats across America.

Missing Studies

Proper studies would easily document and explain the decline of golden eagles. But the studies are not being conducted – deliberately, so as to hide and obfuscate what is happening. The clear history of eagle nesting failures and habitat abandonments near wind projects has been hidden from public view, as wind projects have expanded across California and our western states.

Among the undisclosed impacts are those that occur when adult eagles are killed by a turbine during the egg and downy stages of a nesting cycle. During this critical 8-9 week period, there is a 100% probability of a complete nest failure if one adult eagle is lost. A single parent cannot possibly hunt, incubate eggs, and protect its young from the elements.

This history of golden eagle nesting failures near California wind turbines is never clearly stated, but the evidence is there for anyone who wishes to observe or read about it. Some of this impact is revealed in the last environmental impact documents submitted to support expanding the Shiloh wind project in California’s Montezuma Hills Wind Resource Area, although those documents also suggest that a turbine-related nesting failure recently occurred in this area.

Bald Eagles at Risk

The same fate is coming to our bald eagles. This great bird’s population has been expanding in the wetland habitats of California, and the Sacramento River delta provides good foraging and nesting opportunities for them. Adult bald eagles have been seen near the Montezuma Hills WRA turbines, and a possible (never verified) bald eagle nest site was reported nearby on Grizzly Island. [Read more →]

February 26, 2014   No Comments

Bird Kills: The Evidence and Publicity Mounts (Sierra Club, Audubon must stop deceiving memberships)

“Combined together, these clever [evasive] techniques mean that most carcasses are ‘missed.’ In fact, 90% or more of the slaughter can easily be hidden. This … is certainly not ‘scientific or ‘green.’ But it is certainly effective.”

The Wall Street Journal recently published several letters and articles on the environmental impacts of wind energy, adding to a growing body of reportage of wind power’s cruel, ironic byproduct.

Making the public aware of this extremely important issue is essential, because the wind industry has been using bogus research and other methods to hide its slaughter of millions of birds and bats that are supposedly protected by law, putting some species on a path to extinction.

Falsified Science

1. Delayed Search: At Altamont Pass in California, mortality studies have employed 30-90 day search intervals since 1998. These excessively long search intervals ensure that most carcasses disappear before the next search is conducted. In addition, even as wind turbines have grown larger and larger over the years, search areas for carcasses have deliberately been left unchanged. [Read more →]

November 21, 2013   8 Comments

Bald Eagle and Golden Eagle Mortality at Wind Farms: The Sanitized–and Rest–of the Story

“I therefore suspect that the most likely reason for this missing information concerning eagle mortality at wind farm facilities was due to editing from the upper level positions within the ranks of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. These are same people responsible for the wind industry’s voluntary regulations.”

“So here is the rest of the story. Due to the lack of accountability and monitoring, a single permit could actually result in the death of a hundred of any species a permit is issued for. So much for ‘green’ energy and the public’s sacrifice for paying more for electricity.”

A few weeks ago, an article was published in The Journal of Raptor Research, “Bald Eagle and Golden Eagle Mortalities at Wind Energy Facilities in the Contiguous United States.” Information from this article was widely distributed by media outlets across the country. Most of the headlines said 67 eagles had been killed in five years or 85 had been reported killed over the last 15 years. Unfortunately these are the numbers that the public will remember — whereas the hideous truth about eagle mortality remains buried in disinformation.

The four authors of this study all work for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). The fact is that so much information is missing from the article is of great concern, because the truth about wind turbine impacts should be disclosed and discussed. Since the authors are experts, I do not believe they could possibly have been so remiss with their findings.

I therefore suspect that the most likely reason for this missing information concerning eagle mortality at wind farm facilities was editing by upper level supervisors and political appointees within the FWS. These are same people responsible for the wind industry having only voluntary regulations for monitoring and reporting wildlife mortalities due to their installations – whereas other industries are subject to mandatory requirements and stiff fines for any fatalities.

In order to illustrate the seriousness of the problems with the article, I will present only the closing statement, and then follow up with a new summary that includes missing information and facts, and my expert opinion.

Summary Paragraph: Actual Article

“This summary likely conveys only a limited portion of eagles killed at non-APWRA wind energy facilities in the contiguous United States, considering the general lack of rigorous monitoring and reporting of eagle mortalities. Thus, our findings of the reported mortalities likely underestimate, perhaps substantially, the number of eagles killed at wind facilities in the United States. [Read more →]

October 16, 2013   11 Comments

Windfarm Mortality: Environmental Disinformation, Ecodamage

“Put simply, wind farms are causing considerable damage to nature’s balance, for no benefit whatsoever to society. Indeed, no country in the world has reduced its carbon footprint thanks to them…. It is high time to call a moratorium on wind farms, and examine the situation after ditching our blinkers.”

Wind turbines kill birds and bats, we all know that, but the billion-dollar question is: how many? I say “billion” because subsidies to the wind industry run into billions of dollars per year in the United States alone, and chances are the public would not support such expenditures if they found out that these machines were driving iconic, useful or beautiful species into extinction. It is therefore important to find out the extent of the mortality caused by their rotor blades and high tension power lines.

In a paper presented in 2009 at the Fourth International Partners in Flight Conference,  U.S. Fish & Wildlife Biologist Dr. Albert M. Manville wrote: “While the wind industry currently estimates that turbines kill 58 000 birds per year in the U.S. … the Service estimates annual mortality at 440 000 birds.” (1) This created quite a stir, and the wind industry tried hard to fight this estimate ever since.

Three years later, consultant biologist Dr. Shawn Smallwood came up with his own estimate in the March 2013 issue of the peer-reviewed Wildlife Society Bulletin: “I estimated 888,000 bat and 573,000 bird fatalities/year (including 83,000 raptor fatalities) at 51,630 megawatt (MW) of installed wind-energy capacity in the United States in 2012.” (2) This prompted Birdwatching Magazine to post on their website: “Smallwood’s number of bird deaths represents a 30 percent jump over the 440,000 fatalities estimated by a 2009 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report” (3). Their counterpart in the UK, Birdwatch, wrote a similar article under the headline: “Wind farm bird deaths more than thought”. (4) [Read more →]

September 26, 2013   14 Comments

Hiding Avian Mortality: Where ‘Green’ is Red (Part II: Wolfe Island)

“It is time for responsible people who care about our environment and wildlife to step forward – and demand investigations; prosecutions for fraud, dereliction of duty, and receipt of taxpayer subsidies and other payments made in reliance on false and misleading reports; a suspension of all payments to wind turbine companies, government officials and environmental groups involved in the deception; termination of permits for wind turbines in or near bird and bat habitats; and enforcement of endangered species and migratory bird laws fully and equally against all industries, including industrial wind power.”

While Altamont Pass operators have been hiding most of their wind turbine mortality with search intervals of 30–90 days (see Part I), the rest of North American wind farms hide mortality by using search areas that are far too small. By using only 50 meter search areas for their huge new turbines, the wind facility operators can easily hide over 90% of fatalities caused from turbine blade strikes.

The motive is obvious. The more avian bloodshed, the more public outcry. The more outcry, the less money for wind industry players. The more they hide the ecological devastation, the more they mute the outcry and maintain the flow of subsidies for wind power.

The horrendous impacts on bird and bat populations across North America are of little concern to these special interests. [Read more →]

September 13, 2013   16 Comments

Hiding “Avian Mortality”: Where ‘Green’ is Red (Part I: Altamont Pass)

“The wind industry is hiding over 90% of the bird and bat mortality caused by their turbines. This statement is supported by the industry’s own data and reasonable adjustments for its manipulations.”

“The wind industry is … producing faulty, misleading and even fraudulent documents to hide the serious and growing mortality. This situation has continued for years but has been shielded by state and federal agencies and other supporters of wind power.”

A “green energy” wildlife genocide is depopulating wildlife habitats across the world where vital species once found refuge. Industrial wind turbines have invaded these habitats and are devastating bird and bat species.

Rather than avoiding these critical habitats or taking steps to minimize impacts on important species, the heavily subsidized wind industry is responding by producing faulty, misleading and even fraudulent documents to hide the serious and growing mortality. This situation has continued for years but has been shielded by state and federal agencies and other supporters of wind power.

Having studied these installations and their wildlife impacts for years, I can say without reservation that most of what people hear and read about the wind industry’s benefits and environmental costs is false. However, buried in thousands of pages of wind industry documents are data, omissions and calculations that tell a wind turbine mortality story that is far different from what is portrayed in industry press releases, mainstream news stories and official government reports.

I have frequently said the wind industry is hiding over 90% of the bird and bat mortality caused by their turbines. This statement is supported by the industry’s own data and reasonable adjustments for its manipulations. These calculations will help people understand how the industry is using its studies to hide millions of fatalities; they will also help local residents and officials understand “wind farm” impacts and their role in species extinctions that could soon exact an irreversible toll in many regions.

My analysis focuses on two North American wind resource areas that are well known for killing raptors, other birds and bats: Altamont Pass in southern California and, in Part II next week, Wolfe Island in eastern Lake Ontario, on the Ontario-New York border. [Read more →]

September 4, 2013   26 Comments

The Ungreening of Windpower: Dina Cappiello (AP) Blows the Whistle on Big Wind (and others are following)

“[The Obama] administration has never fined or prosecuted a wind-energy company, even those that flout the law repeatedly. Instead, the government is shielding the industry from liability and helping keep the scope of the [bird] deaths secret.”

- Dina Cappiello, “Obama Administration Allows Wind Farms to Kill Eagles, Birds Despite Federal Laws, Washington Post, May 14, 2013. [Note: WaPo scrubbed the article where the link does not work.]

“By accepting the compromises of the real world and enthusiastically supporting the establishment of the wind industry, [environmentalists] entered the devil’s bargain that now prevents them from fighting the power companies. . . . Here in the almost wilds of Altamont Pass, the environmentalists and Kenetech have reached the point where solutions become problems–the point at which there is blood on the answer.”

- Amy Linn, “Whirly Birds,” SF Weekly, March 29-April 4, 1995.

The Shared Narrative of windpower as ”green” is under assault. What was relegated to the shadows in years and decades past is coming out as never before. 

Earlier this month, AP environmental writer Dina Cappiello’s exposed the federal government’s double-environmental standard towards windpower. As such, she ’mainstreamed’ the work of wind critics Robert Bryce, Paul Driessen, Sherri Lange, James Rust, Tom Tanton, Jim Wiegand, among others.

Is it open season and catch-up time regarding what is politely called windpower’s “avian mortality” problem? In Sunday’s New York Times, Felicity Barringer’s Turbine Plans Unnerve Fans of Condors in California quoted Kelly Fuller of the American Bird Conservancy (ABC) about how the U.S. Department of Interior’s new wind-turbine/bird policy ”blindsided folks.”  Fuller explained in a press release: [Read more →]

May 28, 2013   9 Comments

Wind Power, Bats, and the Ecological Double Standard

“It’s high time that people’s safety – and truly devastating impacts on important bird and bat species – stopped taking a back seat to political agendas, crony corporatism, and folklore environmentalism.”

Georgia residents recently learned that a rare bat has stalled state highway improvements. The May 2012 sighting of an endangered Indiana brown bat in a northern Georgia tree has triggered federal regulations requiring that state road projects not “harm, kill or harass” bats.

Even the possibility of disturbing bats or their habitats would violate the act, the feds say. Therefore, $460 million in Georgia road projects have been delayed for up to eighteen months, so that “appropriate studies” can be conducted. The studies will cost $80,000 to $120,000 per project, bringing the total for all 104 road project analyses to $8–12 million, with delays adding millions more.

Bat Benefits … and Overreach

Bats have a vital ecological function that translates into agricultural and health benefits for us. A single colony of 150 big brown bats can consume up to 1.3 million flying insect pests per year, Dr. Justin Boyles and other scientists point out, preventing crop damage and eradicating countless mosquitoes. If Indiana bats are expanding their range from Tennessee into Georgia, that could be good news.

“White nose syndrome” is impacting populations of hibernating bats in caves all over the Eastern USA. The infectious disease is probably fungal in origin, these scientists say, and the loss of North America’s bats to WNS could cost farmers $4-53 billion per year – and let mosquitoes proliferate.

At first blush, then, the delay-and-study decision by the U.S. and Georgia Departments of Transportation (DOT) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect these voracious furry flyers makes sense. (The FWS enforces the Endangered Species Act, Migratory Bird Treaty Act and similar laws.)

However, the Georgia bat study action is akin to obsessing about a cut finger, while ignoring cancer. The schizophrenic decision underscores how environmental concerns, DOT actions and federal threats to impose penalties or withhold highway funds too often seem to reflect ideologies, agendas and politics, rather than science or actual risks of harming a species [Read more →]

April 5, 2013   9 Comments

Big Wind & Avian Mortality (Part II: Hiding the Problem)

“The cold reality is that honest, scientific, accurate mortality studies in the Altamont Pass area would result in death tolls that would shock Americans. They would also raise serious questions about wind turbines throughout the United States, especially in major bird habitats like Oregon’s Shepherds Flat wind facility and the whooping cranes’ migratory corridor from Alberta, Canada, to Texas.”

Part I yesterday examined the sober findings and admissions of a 2004 study by the California Energy Commission (CEC) on bird carnage at the Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area (APWRA).

Developing Methods to Reduce Bird Mortality in the Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area also looked at the placement of carcasses in relation to turbine types. It documented that the distances carcasses were found from turbine towers increased significantly as turbine megawatt ratings and blade lengths increased. Based on a sample of about 800 carcasses, the report revealed that birds were found an average of 94 feet (28.5 meters) from 100Kw turbines on towers 81 feet (24.6 meters) high.

Obviously, taller turbines with longer blades and faster blade-tip speeds will catapult stricken birds much further. Figure 1 below shows how a turbine 2.5 times larger will result in an average carcass distance of 372 feet (113.5 meters) from the tower. The wind industry is acutely aware of this. [Read more →]

March 15, 2013   39 Comments