One of the byproducts of social media is the rehashing of gif-filled entertainment pages featuring cute animals, compilations of "photo bombs," and other time-wasters. One of those is the "Things that bother people" meme of web pages listing irritants shared by the tall, for example, or the short, introverted, extroverted, frizzy-haired, or Southern. The sharer posts the page in gentle self-deprecation, and fellow afflictees join in appreciation.
If there were a page of "Things that bother logical people," I expect it would have to include the Obama administration’s position on wind turbines killing eagles and other federally protected species. The past few weeks have made that position … evident. Normally, the word "clear" would be called for there but, well, you try to make sense of it:
- In late November, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that a subsidiary of Duke Energy Corp., Duke Energy Renewables, pleaded guilty in federal court for violating laws against killing federally protected birds. Specifically, Duke’s wind turbines in two sites in Wyoming killed over 160 federally protected birds, including 14 golden eagles. Duke was fined $1 million in punishment.
- In early December, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced a long-awaited rule (which readers of the John Locke Foundation’s Locker Room blog were warned about well over a year ago) that extended the federally permitted time for wind power companies to kill federally protected bald and golden eagles from five years to thirty years.
FWS employs the euphemism "taking" in describing the slaughter of eagles by the wildly inefficient, intermittent and extremely unreliable, emissions-intensive (yes — owing to wind power’s unreliability, utilities have to keep conventional power stations as backup either running all the time or cycling on and off, offsetting or eclipsing direct reductions in emissions), unsustainable, expensive "Cuisinarts in the sky" favored by environmentalists.
In sum: a company whose wind turbines killed federally protected eagles had committed federal crimes punishable in court, and a company whose wind turbines kill federally protected eagles over the next three decades can do so scot-free.
National Legal and Policy Center’s Paul Chesser has tried, bless him, to get to the core difference between punishable eagle killing by wind turbine and the kind of eagle killing by wind turbine that gets the Obama administration’s permission to keep on takin’ for the next 30 years. Chesser acknowledged the challenge through understatement: "It’s not often, though, you see such an obvious policy contradiction appear within such a short period of time."
Nevertheless, he tried to unravel the apparent contradiction. Who benefits, he asked?
Companies like Duke Energy, which only two weeks ago was trotted out as a poster child by the Justice Department to prove that they prosecute wind projects for bird killings too. It wouldn’t surprise if we found out that Duke agreed to pay the $1 million fine for killing 160 or so birds under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, knowing that the Obama administration — a close ally of recently departed Duke CEO Jim Rogers — was going to grant this huge regulatory break for them and AWEA. The settlement came after Vitter and Sen. Lamar Alexander had waited nearly a year for an answer to their inquiry about unequal appliance of the bird protection laws.
Besides the Congressional pressure (House Committee on Natural Resources Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) made his own inquiry in May), the administration was also feeling the heat from the mainstream media this year as well. In May the Associated Press published a lengthy expose of how the wind industry has been given a pass on eagle deaths, and even showed how the administration was complicit in its protection.
"Killing these iconic birds is … a federal crime, a charge that the Obama administration has used to prosecute oil companies when birds drown in their waste pits, and power companies when birds are electrocuted by their power lines," AP reported. "But the administration has never fined or prosecuted a wind-energy company, even those that flout the law repeatedly. Instead, the government is shielding the industry from liability and helping keep the scope of the deaths secret."
Given that Duke’s fine was piddling, Chesser’s cui bono approach has merit, especially considering the Obama administration’s exceptional cronyism, not just in "green" energy but also in health care and many, many other arenas, enabled by partisan media that will almost invariably spin the obvious crony giveaways as industries putting aside their interests for the greater good thanks to the president’s wonderful leadership.
That notwithstanding, the Obama administration’s contradictions concerning eagle protection go even further than what’s described above. It might warrant a second entry on the "Things that bother logical people" list.
Once a wind turbine smashes the "federally protected" eagle into a lifeless mash of blood, bones, and feathers, it is illegal for you to pick up or otherwise possess one of those feathers. An exception is made for members of a federally recognized Indian tribe.
That exception doesn’t include Lumbees, for example. The Lumbee Tribe is a state-recognized tribe, not federal. Their highest honor involves the bestowal of an eagle feather.
It seems eagles are federally protected in the same way as was your keeping the health insurance plan and doctors you liked, period. But once the federally protected eagle is federally allowed to be smashed by federally subsidized inefficient energy sources, only federally approved tribe members may collect any unspoiled feathers from the federally protected corpse.
Click here for the Rights & Regulation Update archive.