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Wind farms sued to protect birds

An environmental group is suing two wind energy companies, claiming that they haven't taken steps to prevent thousands of birds from being killed on their wind farms east of San Francisco.
/ Source: The Associated Press

An environmental group on Monday sued two wind energy companies, claiming that wind farms they operate east of San Francisco are killing thousands of protected birds, including eagles, hawks and owls.

The Center for Biological Diversity filed the lawsuit against Florida Power & Light Group Inc. and NEG Micon A/S of Denmark, which together operate about half of the 5,400 wind turbines in the Altamont Pass, one of California’s main centers for wind power production.

Many environmentalists support wind power as a clean source of energy, but some groups here have started complaining that the wind industry hasn’t done enough to reduce bird deaths.

The lawsuit, filed in San Francisco federal court, alleges the companies have known about the problem of bird kills for years but failed to take steps to protect birds, such as making turbine blades more visible.

“To date, the wind industry has not taken a single, meaningful step to reduce bird kills,” said Jeff Miller, a spokesman for the Oakland, Calif.-based center. “We absolutely support wind energy ... but we also think the industry should be held accountable.”

Steven Stengel, a spokesman for Florida Power & Light, declined to comment on the lawsuit because the company has not yet seen it, but he said the company has been talking to federal regulators over the past 18 months about ways to reduce bird deaths.

NEG Micon could not be reached for comment Monday.

Because the Altamont Pass is a major migration corridor for raptors, wind turbines there are reducing populations of protected birds of prey throughout the Western United States, Miller said.