In the latest move in the ongoing saga between wind energy development and the American Bird Conservancy (ABC), the group has petitioned the U.S. Department of the Interior to create regulations – instead of voluntary guidelines – around wind development meant to safeguard wildlife.
The nearly 100-page petition [PDF] urges the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to set up a mandatory permit system for wind projects to mitigate the impact on migratory birds. Wind developers not in compliance would be subject to criminal or civil penalties. The government has estimated that 440,000 birds are killed each year by collisions with wind turbines [PDF]. ABC estimates that without enforceable regulations, more than 1 million birds will be killed in the U.S. each year by 2020.
ABC says it filed the petition because the voluntary guidelines drafted by the government don’t go far enough in preventing bird deaths. In September, the U.S. Department of the Interior released its latest version of wind energy industry guidelines [PDF]. At the time, ABC adamantly criticized the draft for not doing enough to prevent bird deaths or prosecute those responsible for bird deaths.
The nonprofit group says it supports wind power when it is “bird-smart,” and says a coalition of 60 groups are calling for mandatory standards relating to birds and wind farms. ABC says, too, that 20,000 scientists, ornithologists, conservationists and other concerned citizens have shown their support for mandatory standards for the wind industry.
Earlier this year, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) responded to claims of massive bird deaths from wind-power plants, saying that “wind power is far less harmful to birds than the fossil fuels it displaces” and that “incidental losses of individual birds at turbine sites will always be an extremely small fraction of bird deaths caused by human activiites.”