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Thumbs down: Wind industry is getting a pass on wildlife deaths

There seems to be a double standard.

After years of hounding the coal industry about wildlife habitat and other environmental concerns, the Obama administration is taking a much more lenient stance with the wind-power industry.

Friday, the Interior Department said it would allow wind-farm companies to kill or injure eagles without the fear of prosecution for up to three decades. There has been a growing awareness that the huge wind-turbine blades are dangerous for birds, but a recent case against Duke Energy for killing bald and golden eagles was the first time a wind-energy company had been prosecuted under a law protecting migratory birds.

Meanwhile, federal authorities have approved a West Virginia wind farm’s habitat conservation plan, even though it acknowledges that some endangered bats would likely be killed over the next 25 years. Nationally, wind turbines destroy thousands of bats every day, according to some reports.

Wind turbines range in size, but many have a rotating diameter of 200-300 feet and reach speeds of more than 100 miles per hour. Eagles, for example, are typically looking down for food and can just fly into the blade.

Clearly, wind farms are just one of many threats to birds and bats. Power lines, motorists, pollution and a host of other forces take a greater toll every day.

But wind is still a small industry, producing only about 3.5 percent of the electrical power in the United States last year. It is difficult to estimate what the wildlife impact will be if turbines are used on a much broader scale.

There are environmental costs that come with almost every energy source, and the wind industry should not receive favorable treatment just because it has been perceived to be a “green” technology.