Today, Duke Energy (NYSE:DUK) announced its Duke Energy Renewables business had reached an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice to settle for $1 million surrounding claims related to deaths of golden eagles and other birds at two of Duke's wind power sites in Wyoming.
The fines were levied after it was discovered that 14 of the non-threatened or endangered golden eagles were killed within the past three years at the plants near Casper, Wyoming. The $1 million fines will be given to four government agencies and funds, including the North American Wetlands Conservation Fund, the Wyoming Game & Fish Department, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and The Conservation Fund.
Duke noted that these two sites were among the first that it developed between 2007 and 2009, and that was before the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced guidelines for wind energy and issued its eagle conservation plan guidance.
According to the president of Duke Energy Renewables, Greg Wolf:
Our goal is to provide the benefits of wind energy in the most environmentally responsible way possible. We deeply regret the impacts to golden eagles at two of our wind facilities. We have always self-reported all incidents, and from the time we discovered the first fatality, we've been working closely with the Fish and Wildlife Service to take proactive steps to correct the problem.
Duke Energy noted that the steps it is taking -- and has already taken -- to prevent these issues from occurring include: installing radar technology to detect eagles on or near the site; having botanists notify them to shut down the turbines if eagles are in the vicinity of the plant; and other measures to ensure bird fatalities are reduced.
Of these efforts, Tim Hayes, the environmental development director at Duke Energy renewables added; "Our voluntary monitoring and curtailment of turbines have been effective. Upon implementing these measures, more than a year passed without any known golden eagle fatalities at these sites."
Hayes concluded by noting that Duke Energy remains "committed to continuing our work in cooperation with the USFWS to implement appropriate site-specific measures to minimize and mitigate any avian impacts."