(WASHINGTON) — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed a new plan Wednesday that would allow energy companies to operate with permits lasting up to 30 years, while also raising the number of bald eagles they can kill or injure per year without incurring hefty penalties to 4,200, which is nearly four times the current limit.
A source within the Obama administration said this is the best plan put forward to actually help conservation efforts, maintaining this new proposal is a “strong protection” for bald and golden eagles.
Currently, wind power companies can hold permits for five years at a time, which, according to the source, doesn’t give companies good financial footing. By extending the permit to 30 years, it can encourage the development of wind energy, a key source of renewable power that has increased exponentially in recent years. The 30-year permits would still have to be reviewed every five years, and companies would have to submit reports of how many eagles they kill or injure.
The proposal will grant access to critical data about eagles, the source said. It will also allow the administration to work with companies in where the companies place their machines — hopefully to help avoid possible eagle populations.
“The permitting system gives us access to eagles and eagle mortalities that we wouldn’t otherwise have,” the source said. “It’s a great mechanism for us to work proactively to prevent eagle deaths.”
Under the new proposal, companies would pay a $36,000 fee for a permit, which exempts them from the hefty penalties for killing or injuring eagles. Companies would have to commit to take additional measures if they kill or injure more eagles than estimated, or if new information suggests eagle populations are being affected.
Wednesday’s announcement kicks off a 60-day comment period. The source said the administration will consider public comments and issue a final rule by the end of the year.
The Fish and Wildlife Service estimates there are about 143,000 bald eagles and 40,000 golden eagles in the United States.
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