Big Wind wins protection from eagle-death prosecutions, but the production tax credit is still up in the air

posted at 7:41 pm on December 10, 2013 by Erika Johnsen

I missed this at the tail end of last week, but it’s precisely the outcome I was expecting to this latest dustup over the Obama administration’s favorable treatment of its much-beloved renewable energy projects: The Department of Interior, in their ever-infinite wisdom, decided on Friday to institute a rule that will allow wind energy projects to completely avoid compliance with Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and its wildlife-related legal brethren with permits good for thirty years. Via the WSJ:

The newly finalized rule would grant 30-year permits allowing wind farms and other projects to accidentally kill federally protected eagles, provided they meet certain criteria. …

The new rule, which takes effect immediately, is a victory for the wind industry. The industry has contended that the five-year permit created uncertainty, as companies prepared to finance large-scale projects intended to last up to three decades. …

“This isn’t a free pass,” said Peter Kelley, vice president of public affairs for the American Wind Energy Association, a trade group. “To get a permit you have to persuade the government you’re going to do an extensive regime or offset [bird harm] by preserving habitat.”

Yes, because I’m sure the process of persuading the Obama administration that their politically preferred pet energy projects need a specialized permit will be most scrupulous indeed — no “free passes” here, no way! The Department of Justice did finally saddle a wind company with some eagle-death fines earlier this month, but I’ve a feeling that that was more of a small placating gesture ahead of this doozy of a special exemption. Wildlife groups are not pleased about the situation:

“Instead of balancing the need for conservation and renewable energy, Interior wrote the wind industry a blank check,” said Audubon President and CEO David Yarnold on the group’s website. “It’s outrageous that the government is sanctioning the killing of America’s symbol, the Bald Eagle. Audubon will continue to look for reasonable, thoughtful partners to wean America off fossil fuels because that should be everyone’s highest priority. We have no choice but to challenge this decision, and all options are on the table.”

The issue for me has never necessarily been that wind turbines are big bird killers; if wind energy were the clean, cost-effective, and prosperity-inducing energy source its proponents are always portraying it as, that might be a regrettable but worthwhile price to pay. The problem, of course, is that despite their many forms of special federal treatment, wind energy is not a competitive energy source — as evidenced by the fact that, while they won this particular bird-death battle over regulatory uncertainty, they are still fighting tooth and nail for the continuation of the production tax credit that largely determines whether wind industry lives or dies. A PTC extension isn’t looking immediately likely at the moment, and wind companies are rushing to make it in under the wire, via the National Journal:

Uncertainty over expiration of the wind production tax credit has dealt a devastating blow to the wind industry’s forward march. …

When Congress extended the credit at the beginning of 2013, it altered the terms. Now, construction doesn’t have to be finished before the credit expires for a project to be eligible for the subsidy—it just has to be underway. …

But while contract signing hasn’t slowed heading into expiration of the credit the way it did last year, the industry won’t be insulated from damage forever if the subsidy is allowed to lapse.

“If the PTC is not extended this year, that’s a concern because we need to have it extended as soon as possible,” the wind association’s CEO, Tom Kiernan, said in an interview last month. “We’re not going to fall off the cliff as rapidly as we did this year, but if the credit isn’t extended it will still have a similar effect—it’s just that the curve [representing the construction drop-off] will be smoothed out.”

As in, if the credit isn’t extended, there will be a huge drop-off in investment, because wind isn’t up to snuff without it? Hello?!


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Hot Wind?

viking01 on December 10, 2013 at 7:45 PM

I just hope we can lose less money on the eagles than we did on the GM bailout.

Wino on December 10, 2013 at 7:46 PM

“Big Wind” – that’s so appropriate.

TarheelBen on December 10, 2013 at 7:52 PM

The industry has contended that the five-year permit created uncertainty, as companies prepared to finance large-scale projects intended to last up to three decades. …

…so they are expecting tax subsidies… for three decades?

KOOLAID2 on December 10, 2013 at 7:52 PM

“Obama to Bald Eagles: ‘Drop Dead‘”.

orangemtl on December 10, 2013 at 8:01 PM

“Sure, living in a glass house has its disadvantages but you should see the birds smack it.”

—– Punch line from Gary Larson’s “Far Side.”

viking01 on December 10, 2013 at 8:15 PM

“This isn’t a free pass,” said Peter Kelley, vice president of public affairs for the American Wind Energy Association, a trade group.

Funny, it sure as hell looks like a free pass to me.

Shay on December 10, 2013 at 8:16 PM

Ya’d think “The Smartest Man in the World” would talk to folks in Europe about all they’ve learned from “wind” energy.

GarandFan on December 10, 2013 at 8:18 PM

Wait till sea gulls and pigeons start getting ginsu-ed.

BobMbx on December 10, 2013 at 8:25 PM

Obama…if you like your bald eagles you can keep them.PERIOD.

jaywemm on December 10, 2013 at 8:28 PM

Liberalism is just pure insanity.

Murphy9 on December 10, 2013 at 8:35 PM

Ask any democrat progtard you meet about wind power and all they will “know” is that it is “free.”

That is it.

Murphy9 on December 10, 2013 at 8:36 PM

This brings to mind the way environmentalists oppose everything on the grounds of “unforeseen consequences.” If this was the fruits of their lobbying, they’d be howling about it.

flataffect on December 10, 2013 at 9:19 PM

Every wind tower requires a service road and a power line for connecting it to the grid. So why is all this acceptable to the defenders of Mother Earth?

flataffect on December 10, 2013 at 9:45 PM

Equal application of the law means absolutely NOTHING to Democrats. All they want is their agenda, the eagles be ______________. Where’s PETA when you need them?

MN J on December 10, 2013 at 10:46 PM

Wind Power: The energy of THE FUTURE …

… for the past 500 years.

PackerBronco on December 10, 2013 at 11:01 PM

We are witnessing the avian apocolypse.

No Chop Charlie on December 10, 2013 at 11:20 PM

Does this mean we can build the Keystone Pipeline now? Hell with the prairie hamsters and the cactus cardinals and all of those pesky things you never heard of.

hip shot on December 11, 2013 at 8:20 AM

The newly finalized rule would grant 30-year permits allowing wind farms and other projects to accidentally kill federally protected eagles, provided they meet certain criteria. …

“…accidentally kill”? That’s not what’s happening here.

If the rules are actually written this way, the wind indistry is in big trouble.

See, if you put up a bunch of these birdy quisinarts, you are GOING to kill federally protected birds. Guaranteed. It ain’t no accident.

And if the administration decides that wind energy is a bigger liability than the PETA lobby, they’ll put it out of business in a heartbeat. The wind lobby just signed their own death warrant.

Good.

runawayyyy on December 11, 2013 at 3:00 PM