PacifiCorp Energy, a subsidiary of PacifiCorp, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Wyoming to violating the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act in connection with the deaths of protected birds, including golden eagles, at two of the company's wind projects in Wyoming.
As a result, PacifiCorp will pay $2.5 million in fines and will take measures at the company's Wyoming wind farms to increase eagle populations.
Under a plea agreement with the government, the company was sentenced to pay fines, restitution and community service, and was placed on probation for five years, during which it must implement an environmental compliance plan aimed at preventing bird deaths at the company's four commercial wind projects in the state.
Under the agreement, the company is also required to apply for eagle take permits which, if granted, will provide a framework for minimizing and mitigating the deaths of golden eagles at the wind projects.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), the charges stem from the discovery of the carcasses of 38 golden eagles and 336 other protected birds, including hawks, blackbirds, larks, wrens and sparrows, by the company at its Seven Mile Hill and Glenrock/Rolling Hills wind projects, located in Wyoming's Carbon and Converse counties between 2009 and the present.
In court-presented documents, the government alleged that PacifiCorp Energy failed to make all reasonable efforts to build the projects in a way that would avoid the risk of avian deaths by collision with turbine blades, despite prior guidance from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS).
However, the company has since cooperated with the FWS investigation and has already implemented measures aimed at minimizing avian deaths at the sites, the DOJ notes.
Under the settlement, PacifiCorp will pay $400,000 in fines, $200,000 restitution to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and $1.9 million to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to help protect golden eagles near the company's Wyoming wind facilities. PacifiCorp will work with the FWS to implement a specific plan to protect eagles and other migratory birds.
According to papers filed with the court, PacifiCorp will spend approximately $600,000 per year by implementing the compliance plan. The company must also apply to the FWS for a programmatic eagle take permit at each of the projects cited in the case.
‘PacifiCorp is concerned about the impacts to wildlife from our renewable energy facilities, and we have been diligently working with federal and state agencies to protect migratory birds,’ says Mark Tallman, vice president of renewable resources. ‘We are committed to enhancing protections to wildlife that minimize and mitigate impacts.’