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Wind power generation plant pleads in deaths of hundreds of birds

CLARKSBURG – Wind power generation plant AES Laurel Mountain LLC has pleaded guilty to two federal misdemeanors in the deaths of hundreds of migratory birds five years ago at its Barbour County facility.

A total of 314 migratory birds, the majority Blackpoll Warblers, died Oct. 2, 2011, at the “undeveloped, wooded and mountainous” site, U.S. Attorney William J. Ihlenfeld II has alleged.

And a day later, 81 more migratory birds died at the complex, Ihlenfeld alleged.

Giant wind turbines, which look like windmills, are located at the site. But in this instance, the birds, confused by the lighting of the complex, as well as fog and a low cloud ceiling, collided with battery containers and wires, according to Ihlenfeld’s filing.

Causes of death included blunt force impact, lacerations and exhaustion, Ihlenfeld asserted.

The filing contended the company failed in its legal obligation to comply with the Migratory Bird Treaty Act by not using “reasonable, prudent and effective measures to avoid or minimize the impact of lighting on migratory birds.”

The company also failed to provide proper training to employees about compliance with the Act, Ihlenfeld alleged.

The company could face a fine of up to $15,000 for each count, incarceration of up to 6 months, or both when sentencing is imposed at a later date by U.S. Magistrate Michael John Aloi.