Next time you drive over the Altamont Pass take note of some of the 4,500 turbines spread across 30,000 acres that are home to the world’s largest concentration of wind turbines.
The spinning blades at one point were killing 1,300 raptors every year including 70 golden eagles that were federally protected. Some studies put the overall yearly bird kill as high as 4,700.
Newer turbines have reduced the kill rate roughly in half since 2005. Still, that is at least 35 federally protected golden eagles killed by government energy policies on both the state and federal level. The Altamont Pass is on a major migratory path. Birds using the corridor include the federally protected golden eagle. It isn’t surprising there has been a major decline in the golden eagle population in California since the first wind turbine went up on the Altamont Pass.
Big tax credits that make it economically profitable for investors to sink money into wind turbines are responsible for the growth of wind farms. Ironically, it was a tax credit that Jerry Brown signed into law during his first stint as governor that prompted the rapid proliferation of wind turbines on the Altamont Pass. Without the tax credit which is essentially a government subsidy the wind turbines would not have penciled out as an investment. They’d be big money losers.
But wind power is good because as a renewable energy source it reduces the carbon footprint and therefore is good for birds even the dead ones, right?
The National Academy of Sciences doesn’t think so at least in California’s case. Wind power’s help at reducing air pollution in the Golden State is considered almost negligible under a recent study by the highly regarded organization.
What makes wind power in California a high profile representation of green hypocrisy is the zero tolerance viewpoint the California Legislature has taken regarding lead being used in hunting ammo. Brown signed into law a measure Friday that puts in motion a phase out of lead in hunting ammo that will be completed by July 2019. California is the first state to make such a move.
It’s a good thing. Studies show in the eight counties where a lead ammo hunting ban has been in effect for a number of years, the lead content in golden eagles and other raptors dropped significantly. That’s because they were no longer feeding off carcasses of birds and other animals killed with ammo containing lead.
While it isn’t healthy for birds to have elevated lead levels, the kill rate from such poisoning statewide didn’t even match one month’s golden eagle carnage at the Altamont Pass wind farms.
Yet the wind farms continue to operate despite everyone agreeing they should never have been put there in the first place given it is a major migratory bird route. Such placement violated provisions of the Bald Eagle and Golden Eagle Protection Act, the Migratory Treaty Act and various parts of the California Fish and Game codes that were in effect when the wind turbines were put in place and are still the law today.
No other place in California — or the United States for that matter — comes even close to the golden eagle and overall bird kill of the turbines on the Altamont Pass.
The green hypocrisy is about to get worse.
The United States Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing a permit to allow a new wind project in Solano County to kill up to five golden eagles over a five-year period.
It should be noted the federal agency hasn’t prosecuted a single wind farm even though the documented killings since 2007 include those of six bald eagles.
Yet the federal government has repeatedly prosecuted oil and coal companies that run afoul of the various laws protecting eagles and other birds.
The double standard demonstrates how “green” industries can get away with “murder” in the form of bird kills while everyone else must face the consequences for the death of a protected bird.
The lead ban in hunting ammo makes sense. It won’t have a major impact on hunting. What also make sense is phasing out the Altamont Pass wind farms as they can easily be replaced with less destructive renewable energy such as solar.
But that isn’t going to happen. That’s because the green movement is so wrapped up in its technology that it won’t weigh if the bad exceeds the good in an endeavor they embrace. Another classic case is how ethanol subsidies drastically reduced corn for human consumption while driving up prices and at the same time eating up a lot of energy to create fuel for vehicles.
It also doesn’t help that big time big political contributors are among those that are making hay off the energy credits whether it is for wind, ethanol production or solar.
So when faced with a moral dilemma, Sacramento goes after the little guys while letting big business continue to operate in clear violation of federal and state laws.
This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Journal or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209-249-3519.