BP Oil Spill Update: Bird Death Fines Depend On Who Kills the Birds

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BY JACK DINI – What’s a brown pelican worth? What about an eagle, a bat, or a desert tortoise? Regarding brown pelicans, USA Today says, “It’s a question that could consume environmental economists and scientists for years as they try to put price tags on the animals killed and habitat destroyed by the massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill- an environmental analysis federal officials describe as the largest of its kind. The federal and state authorities ultimately will send their bill to BP and other companies responsible for the spill.” Interior Department Assistant Secretary Tom Strickland, who overseas fish, wildlife and parks adds, “Putting a price on a brown pelican is like trying to put a price on a sunset. The value of a brown pelican is really a replacement brown pelican.” (1)


Hard to debate these words, yet strange as it may seem, the same rhetoric has not been applied to eagles, owls, and desert tortoises.

Some examples:

-There were more than 6,000 birds killed in the Deepwater Horizon/BP oil spill impact area. (1)

-US wind turbines kill an estimated 75,000 to 275,000 birds per year. (2) In just one location in California, the Altamont Pass turbines kill yearly, 75 to 100 golden eagles, 350 borrowing owls, 300 rat-tailed hawks, and 333 American kestrels. (3)

-US wind turbines also kill thousands of bats yearly. Bat Conservation reports, “If the approximately 900 turbines currently proposed for wooded ridge tops in Pennsylvania and West Virginia are built, those turbines alone could kill more than 50,000 bats a year. Given bats low reproductive rates, kills of such magnitude could put entire species at risk.” (4)

-The Bureau of Land Management reports that relocating desert tortoises for the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System in Southern California will displace or kill approximately 30 of the creatures. (5)

In speaking about the animal deaths caused by the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, Natural Resources Defense Council senior attorney David Pettit says that once these resources are gone, they cannot be replaced. (1) He says nothing about the deaths caused by alternate energy sources such as wind and solar power. Where’s the hue and cry from other environmental organizations such as Greenpeace, Sierra Club, National Audubon Society, and others? If oil or gas are the killers, that’s bad. If alternate energy such as wind or solar kill species, ignore the issue.

When it comes to protecting America’s wildlife, environmental organizations and federal law enforcement officials have a double standard: one that’s enforced against oil, gas and electric utility sectors, and another that exempts wind and solar power from prosecution despite evidence a multitude of violations to two of America’s oldest wildlife-protection laws.


1. Donna Leinwand, “Tallying BP oil spill on wildlife habitat,” USA Today, October 31, 2010, Page 3A

2. Robert Bryce, “Bird Kills? What bird kills?” September 11, 2009, www.energytribune.com/articles.cfm?aid=2294

3. Andrew Walden, “Wind Energy’s Ghosts,” American Thinker, February 15, 2010

4. “Wind Energy” A Lethal Crisis,” Bat Conservation International, November 1, 2009

5. G. Shaun, “Destruction in Ivanpah begins: Future of tortoise in doubt,” mojavedesertblog, October 9, 2010