Center for Biological Diversity



Proposed January 2007 Settlement Agreement

Terms of Agreement

Alameda County’s Proposed Permit Revisions

Center Analysis of Why the Agreement is a Disaster for Birds

Smallwood Comments on Agreement Deficiencies

Center Request for Postponement

Appeal of Alameda County permits

The Center for Biological Diversity, CAlifornians for Renewable Energy, and Golden Gate Audubon Society appealed 29 permits covering more than 3,600 wind turbines at Altamont Pass, after Alameda County renewed them without conducting any public environmental review or requiring meaningful mitigation measures to reduce or compensate for bird deaths.  View the November 2003 and January 2004 permit appeals.

The Alameda County Board of Supervisors approved the permit renewals on September 22, 2005, with additional conditions and mitigations aimed at reducing ongoing bird kills. The new conditions are an improvement over the original permits, which required no reduction in bird kill, but have numerous flaws and loopholes and do not include important measures conservationists, state Attorney General Bill Lockyer, state and federal regulatory agencies, bird experts, and consultants for the California Energy Commission have called for. View the CBD press release on the permit renewals, and comment letters from the appellants and the Attorney General’s office on the deficiencies of the permit conditions.

Lawsuit filed over past bird kills

The CBD filed a lawsuit in November 2004 for unlawful and unfair business practices under California’s Unfair Competition Law (section 17200 of the California Business and Professions Code) against wind power companies at Altamont Pass, seeking restitution for the past killing of thousands of raptors in flagrant criminal violation of state and federal wildlife protection laws.  View the lawsuit and the press release.

View comment letters from experts, conservationists, and regulatory agencies opposing the permit renewals:

Comment letter from raptor experts Shawn Smallwood and Carl Thelander of BioResource Consultants, Proposed CUP renewals for wind turbines and bird kills in the Altamont Pass WRA

CBD comment letters to Alameda County:
Appeal issues summary
11/13/03 - why an EIR is needed and required
1/28/04 – supplemental comments on the need for an EIR
9/20/04 – request for immediate hearing
11/1/04 – inadequacy of proposed industry mitigation plan
11/9/04 - suggested roadmap for Supervisors

Other comment letters opposing permit renewals and asking for an EIR
Californians for Renewable Energy comments
CA Burrowing Owl Consortium comments
East Bay Regional Park District comments
US Fish and Wildlife Service comments
CA Dept. of Fish and Game comments
CA Energy Commission comments

Supporting Research

Press releases

4/3/06 - Alameda County Flubs First Step in Reducing Bird Kills by Obsolete Wind Turbines
9/21/05 - Alameda County to Approve Flawed Permits for Altamont Pass Wind Farms This Week

3/30/05 – Altamont Lawsuit to Go Forward
2/17/05 - Judge OKs CBD Lawsuit to Go Forward
11/1/04 - Expanded Lawsuit over Raptor Kills at Altamont Pass

8/12/04 - CA Energy Commission Report Urges Mitigation Measures and Habitat Preservation for Massive Bird Kills at Altamont Pass Wind Farms
1/12/04 – Lawsuit Seeks Redress for Massive Illegal Bird Kills at Altamont Pass Wind Farms
11/21/03 - Alameda County Illegally Approves Continued Bird Kills at Altamont Wind Farms


Updated: January 10, 2007


As an environmental organization, the Center for Biological Diversity supports the development of alternative energy sources as a way to reduce our impact on the environment, including reducing greenhouse emissions and protecting wildlife habitat.  However, some wind power facilities, such as the Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area (APWRA) in eastern Alameda and Contra Costa Counties, California, are causing severe environmental impacts to raptor populations due to bird kills from collisions with turbines and electrocution on power lines.  We have a strong interest in making wind power cleaner and believe there are numerous changes that could be easily implemented at Altamont Pass by the wind power industry to significantly reduce these massive raptor kills. View the CBD’s recommendation for permit conditions to reduce and compensate for avian mortality.

Altamont Pass is the most lethal wind farm in North America for raptors

Wind turbines at the Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area (APWRA) kill more birds of prey than any other wind facility in North America, due to their location on a major bird migratory route in an area with high concentrations of raptors, including the highest density of breeding golden eagles in the world. Research by raptor experts for the California Energy Commission (CEC) indicates that each year, Altamont Pass wind turbines kill an estimated 881 to 1,300 birds of prey, including more than 75 golden eagles, several hundred red-tailed hawks, several hundred burrowing owls, and hundreds of additional raptors including American kestrels, great horned owls, ferruginous hawks, and barn owls. These kills of over 40 different bird species are in violation of federal and state wildlife protection laws such as the Bald Eagle and Golden Eagle Protection Act, Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and several California Fish and Game Code provisions.  View a fact sheet on the Altamont Pass bird kill issue.

Turbine owners have failed to implement known measures to reduce bird kills

The CEC has concluded that re-powering projects (replacing numerous outdated turbines with fewer turbines on taller towers, so that the blades are above most raptor flight patterns) have the best potential for reducing bird kills at APWRA.  In an August 2004 report, raptor experts with the CEC recommended re-powering the APWRA and proposed that wind power companies implement a suite of mitigation measures to reduce bird kills at existing turbines as well as preserve off-site nesting habitat for raptors to compensate for ongoing unacceptable bird losses.  Suggested mitigation measures for existing turbines include: retiring or relocating particularly lethal turbines; relocating and siting turbines into configurations less lethal to birds; retrofitting power poles to prevent bird electrocutions; increasing the visibility of turbines to birds; discontinuing the rodent poisoning program; and managing grazing to encourage rodent prey away from turbines.  Despite the CEC’s recent conclusion that the risk to raptors at APWRA has increased over the past 15 years, the wind power companies at APWRA have failed to commit to these mitigations.

We can have wind energy without decimating imperiled wildlife populations

There is scientific consensus that the industrialized world’s addiction to fossil fuels is causing irreversible climate change, altering ecosystems, and destroying biodiversity. Conservationists support the development of clean energy as an alternative to fossil fuel power plants, but impacts to wildlife should be reduced wherever possible. Potential sites for new wind energy projects should be reviewed for bird abundance, migration and use patterns, and wind farms should be designed and operated to prevent or minimize bird mortality. Where existing wind energy facilities are having adverse impacts on birds, as at Altamont Pass, these impacts should be fully mitigated. Turbine owners at APWRA must take reasonable measures to reduce bird kills and adequately compensate for impacts to imperiled bird populations. According to wind industry reports, the fiasco at Altamont Pass has hampered wind power development, as unresolved concerns about impacts to birds resulted in delays or discontinuation of other wind facilities.

Taking action on global warming and promoting alternative energy

The Center for Biological Diversity has been a leader in working toward a sustainable energy policy and taking on the U. S. government’s inaction on addressing global climate change. In 2002 and 2006 we won landmark cases under the 1992 Energy Security Act, compelling federal agencies to purchase thousands of alternative fuel vehicles. In 2006 we filed suit challenging the Bush administration’s inadequate new national gas mileage standards for gas-guzzling SUVs, minivans and light trucks. In 2003 we filed suit along with numerous State Attorney Generals and environmental groups under the Clean Air Act, challenging the Bush administration’s attempt to deny the Environmental Protection Agency authority to address global climate change by regulating heat-trapping emissions such as carbon dioxide. In 2005 we filed suit to rein in the EPA’s foot-dragging on regulating sulfur dioxide pollution from coal-fired power plants and oil refineries. We have petitioned for federal Endangered Species Act protection for several species threatened by ecosystem alteration due to the effects of global climate change. We are also fighting to protect our wildlands and wildlife habitat from oil and gas drilling, and are actively protecting dozens of imperiled species and wildlife habitat in and around the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, the Los Padres National Forest in southern California, and near Zuni Salt Lake in New Mexico.