A controversial, mega wind energy project has attracted a second lawsuit, this one federal, over possible bird kills.
A coalition of environmental groups sued Kern County last year after supervisors approved the nearly 13,000-acre, 300 megawatt North Sky River Wind Energy Project, which would dwarf almost all other projects built in Kern to date.
Then earlier this month, the same coalition also sued the Bureau of Land Management.
At issue are the potential deaths of golden and bald eagles as well as California condors, said Barbara Boyle, spokeswoman for the Sierra Club, which is involved in both suits.
“This is a very large project right next to the existing Pine Tree project, which has killed at least eight golden eagles in the last two years,” she said.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is investigating those deaths. Pine Tree, which covers 8,000 acres, is a Los Angeles Department of Water and Power project.
Bird kills have become a greater concern as wind projects have stretched further into higher elevations of the rugged southern Sierra Nevada mountains. The situation became critical last year after a California condor was recorded as having passed over the North Sky territory, indicating a possible expansion of the endangered bird’s territory.
This could create quite a dilemma for the federal government, which has spent millions to bring the condor back from the brink of extinction as it also hands out millions in tax incentives to wind energy companies.
The feds recently came up with voluntary guidelines for wind operators to protect these species. But those are just voluntary.
“We’d like to see a lot more restrictions and fines and other kinds of consequences if an eagle or, God forbid, a condor, is killed by wind facilities,” Boyle said.
Boyle said her groups had been involved in settlement discussions with NextEra, which owns the North Sky project, and will continue to try work something out with the company.
“We do support renewable energy and want to see it built as rapidly as possible in California, but impacts need to be minimized,” she said.
NextEra spokesman Steve Stengel declined to comment as NextEra is not named in either lawsuit.
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