The Obama administration said today it will allow some companies to kill or injure bald and golden eagles for up to 30 years without penalty, in an effort to spur development and investment in green energy while balancing its environmental consequences. The change, requested by the wind energy industry, will provide legal protection for wind energy companies that obtain a permit and make efforts to avoid killing the birds. Companies would have to commit to take additional measures if they kill or injure more eagles than they have estimated they would, or if new information suggests that eagle populations are being affected. The permits would be reviewed every five years, and companies would have to submit reports of how many eagles they kill.
An investigation by the AP earlier this year documented the illegal killing of eagles around wind farms, the Obama administration's reluctance to prosecute such cases, and its willingness to help keep the scope of the eagle deaths secret. The White House has championed wind power, a pollution-free energy intended to ease global warming, as a cornerstone of President Barack Obama's energy plan. Wind farms are clusters of turbines as tall as 30-story buildings, with spinning rotors as wide as a passenger jet's wingspan. Though the blades appear to move slowly, they can reach speeds of up to 170mph at the tips, creating tornado-like vortexes. Flying eagles don't look up; as they scan below for food, they don't notice the industrial turbine blades until it's too late. Click for more. (Read more wind power stories.)