The government for the first time has enforced environmental laws protecting birds against wind energy facilities, winning a $1 million settlement from a power company that pleaded guilty to killing 14 eagles and 149 other birds at two Wyoming wind farms.
The Obama administration has championed pollution-free wind power and used the same law against oil companies and power companies for drowning and electrocuting birds. The case against Duke Energy and its renewable energy arm was the first prosecuted under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act against a wind energy company.
"In this plea agreement, Duke Energy Renewables acknowledges that it constructed these wind projects in a manner it knew beforehand would likely result in avian deaths," Robert G. Dreher, acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division, said in a statement Friday.
An investigation by The Associated Press in May revealed dozens of eagle deaths from wind energy facilities, including at Duke's Top of the World farm outside Casper, Wyo., the deadliest for eagles of 15 such facilities that Duke operates nationwide. The other wind farm included in the settlement, Campbell Hill, is northwest of Casper.