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Monday, December 9, 2013

Wind farms: Interior Department sacrifices eagle protection for alternative energy -- By Stephen Dinan, The Washington Times

**FILE** An American bald eagle (Associated Press)The Interior Department will finalize a rule Monday that would grant permits to let wind farms kill eagles for up to 30 years, six times longer than current permits allow.

While acknowledging that the science is uncertain and standards on the best ways to reduce eagle deaths have not been implemented, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said the eagle population has remained steady for the past 40 years and that it's worth testing a longer permit for bird kills.

Wind farms are the fields of turbines that dot the landscape. They kill about 440,000 birds a year, including some iconic bald eagles, golden eagles and other protected species, raising questions about the balance between renewable energy production and the environment it is supposed to be helping.

"Permits to kill eagles just seems unpatriotic, and 30 years is a long time for some of these projects to accrue a high death rate," said Sen. David Vitter, Louisiana Republican and a critic of the Interior Department.

He and fellow Republicans said the administration has been tougher on traditional energy sources such as oil and gas when it comes to bird kills, but has been more lenient on renewable energy.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, Tennessee Republican, said the new rule amounts to "federal hunting licenses" for wind farms to kill eagles.

"We need even treatment of the law for energy development, regardless of source, and this revised rule misses the mark by giving continued leniency to renewable energy projects, such as wind farms," Mr. Alexander said.

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