CENTER FOR BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY
ALTAMONT LAWSUIT TO GO FORWARD SEEKING INJUNCTIVE RELIEF TO PREVENT RAPTOR KILLINGS AT ALTAMONT PASS, CA WIND TURBINES
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE March 30, 2005
Oakland, CA – Judge Ronald Sabraw of the Alameda County Superior Court has ruled that the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) and its co-plaintiff Peter Galvin can go forward with claims for injunctive and declaratory relief in their lawsuit against wind power companies responsible for killing thousands of eagles, hawks, falcons, owls, and other protected birds with wind power turbines in the Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area (Altamont) in the San Francisco Bay Area of California. In addition, Judge Sabraw ruled that, notwithstanding the public trust ownership of wildlife, the defendants could not be required to provide restitution for the wildlife they are destroying and are not subject to any monetary penalties for killing massive numbers of protected birds.
The lawsuit was filed in state court on November 1, 2004, seeking remedies for the killing of tens of thousands of raptors in criminal violation of state and federal wildlife protection laws. Wind turbines at Altamont have killed an estimated 880 to 1,330 golden eagles, hawks, owls and other protected raptors each year for the past 20 years, in violation of numerous California Fish and Game Code provisions as well as the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald Eagle and Golden Eagle Protection Act. The lawsuit alleges that these thousands of crimes by wind power companies including FPL Energy, GREP, Green Ridge Power, Altamont Power, Enxco, Seawest Windpower, Windworks, Altamont Winds, and Pacific Winds are unlawful and unfair business practices under California’s Unfair Competition Law (section 17200 of the California Business and Professions Code). In an earlier February 17, 2005 decision, Judge Sabraw ruled that the enactment of California Proposition 64 in November 2004 did not bar CBD from pursuing claims against the wind power companies for destroying wildlife.
“We are gratified that the court has affirmed twice in the past two months that this lawsuit raises important wildlife protection issues that must have their day in court, and has rejected the attempts by the defendant wind companies to dismiss the lawsuit and avoid responsibility for their violations of wildlife protection laws,” said Richard Wiebe, the attorney representing the CBD in the lawsuit. “We respectfully disagree, however, with the conclusion that the defendants may kill thousands of eagles, hawks, falcons, owls, and other protected birds without having to provide any compensation whatsoever to the Californians whose environment they are despoiling,” added Wiebe. “This would be a dangerous precedent that would prevent anyone, including the State of California itself, from recovering compensation for wildlife and other natural resources when those resources are destroyed by oil spills or other acts of pollution and environmental harm.”
Also continuing is the administrative appeal to the Alameda County Board of Supervisors of 29 permits covering more than 3,600 wind turbines at Altamont. In November 2003 and January 2004, CBD, Golden Gate Audubon Society, and Californians for Renewable Energy appealed these permits after Alameda County renewed them without conducting any public environmental review or requiring any meaningful mitigation measures to reduce or compensate for bird deaths.
“The latest mitigation plan proposed by the wind power companies still fails to substantially reduce the massive bird kills at Altamont and contains no commitment to off-site mitigation to compensate for the continuing bird slaughter,” said Jeff Miller, spokesperson for CBD. “In order to maximize their profits, the wind companies are trying to postpone for at least another 13 years the replacement of Altamont’s obsolete killer turbines with newer, safer wind turbines that could substantially increase the production of renewable power at Altamont. The industry plan would still permit the wind companies to kill up to 845 eagles, hawks, and owls each year, including up to 75 golden eagles each year,” added Miller. “We whole-heartedly support responsible wind power, but the Altamont Pass wind turbine operators are seeking to continue operating their obsolete killer turbines without substantial reduction in mortality and without mitigation for the bird kills that will continue to occur.”
The CEC’s August 2004 report on Altamont avian mortality is available at www.energy.ca.gov/pier/reports/500-04-052.html