The Wall Street Journal knows it, opining yesterday that the prosecutions are “bird-brained,” especially when wind-power outfits routinely beat the rap:
The companies have pleaded not guilty, though they are not unamazed. They say they’re not responsible for the bird deaths and that, even if they were, the deaths were “incidental” to lawful commercial activity in full compliance with all environmental laws.
Law enforcement officials we talked to in North Dakota say they can’t remember such a case ever going to court. One local commentator calls it “the most absurd legal action taken by the government in the history of North Dakota.” One of the charged oil companies “even went to U.S. Fish and Wildlife and self-reported a number of birds, asking what else they could do soon after they had found the dead birds,” reports the Plains Daily, North Dakota’s statewide newspaper.
U.S. Attorney Timothy Purdon is nonetheless undaunted as he pursues the cause of ornithological justice.
Absurdity aside, this prosecution is all the more remarkable because the wind industry each year kills not 28 birds, or even a few hundred, but some 440,000, according to estimates by the American Bird Conservancy based on Fish and Wildlife Service data. Guess how many legal actions the Obama Administration has brought against wind turbine operators under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act? As far as we can tell, it’s zero.
“It is perplexing that similar prosecutions have yet to be brought against the operators of wind farms,” said American Bird Conservancy President George Fenwick. “Every year wind turbines kill hundreds of thousands of birds, including eagles, hawks, and songbirds, but the operators are being allowed to get away with it. It looks like a double standard.”
The Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) estimated in 2009 that about 440,000 birds were being killed by wind turbines, the ABC reports. With an anticipated twelve-fold wind energy build-out by the year 2030, bird mortality is expected to dramatically increase in the coming years, absent significant changes in the way wind farms are sited and operated. Based on studies, one wind farm in California is estimated to have killed more than 2,000 eagles, plus thousands of other birds, yet no prosecution has been initiated for violations of federal laws protecting birds.
Kevin Cramer, North Dakota’s public service commissioner, expressed concern about an apparent presumption of guilt that motivated the U.S. Wildlife Department’s 45-day helicopter search for dead birds in North Dakota’s oil fields, according to the Plains Daily.
“That’s chilling to me in a free society,” Cramer noted on a Bismark, N.D. radio show. “I’m certainly concerned this was a high priority for the government.”
Cramer agreed with the WSJ editorial board’s analysis, saying “when you selectively prosecute this way, it’s the worst injustice and the grossest form of discrimination in a free society that you can ever have.”