The Department of Interior approved the rule, which will become effective 30 days after publication in the Federal Register.
The Audubon conservation group blasted the rule that lengthens the current five-year rule, calling it a blank check for the wind industry to kill eagles.
Just recently, in the first criminal prosecution of the wind farm for eagle kills, Duke Energy Renewables pleaded guilty in US District Court in Wyoming to violating the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act in connection with the deaths of protected birds at two of the company’s wind farms in Wyoming.
Wind industry officials say their industry poses little threat to eagle populations and that the permits will provide regulatory certainty to developers of wind farms and various other types of projects.
The American Wind Energy Association defended its record in taking the lead in utility scale projects to minimize its impact on birds.
The rule text touts conservation provisions in the regulation. It says, “The permits must incorporate conditions specifying additional measures that may be necessary to ensure the preservation of eagles, should monitoring data indicate the need for the measures.”
The regulation will “facilitate the responsible development of renewable energy and other projects designed to operate for decades, while continuing to protect eagles consistent with our statutory mandates,” the rule states.
In a statement released by the Interior Department Friday, Secretary Sally Jewell defended the rule as a way to bolster alternative energy production. “Renewable energy development is vitally important to our nation’s future,” Jewell said, adding: “But it has to be done in the right way. “The changes in this permitting program will help the renewable energy industry and others develop projects that can operate in the longer term.”