The Sierra Wind Turbine Club
But as the problems have multiplied, the outrage has not.
“I’m old enough to remember when environmentalists cared about protecting our birds, bats, and whales,” wrote Bryce in August 2022, addressing NextEra’s federal fines for eagle killing. “Alas, concern about protecting our wildlife has been lost amid the headlong rush to cover the countryside with oceans of solar panels and forests of wind turbines in the hope that they will save us from climate change.”
His target was the supposed “environmentalists” who cared little for what NextEra had done.
“The Sierra Club didn’t issue a press release on the matter,” he wrote. “Nor did the National Audubon Society, Natural Resources Defense Council, or Environmental Defense Fund. The silence of the NGO-Industrial Complex shows that the biggest “green” groups in America are completely in the tank when it comes to renewable energy. They aren’t concerned about preserving rural landscapes. Nor are they concerned about the ongoing slaughter of our wildlife by the wind industry.”
Indeed, it is as if they have become the Sierra Wind Turbine Club, or the Wind Resources Defense Council, and so forth.
Notwithstanding the 2022 case against NextEra, Federal wildlife officials have also responded poorly.
The headline for a May 2023 Associated Press investigation in the Seattle Times declared: “Criminal cases for killing eagles decline as wind turbine dangers grow.” The investigation found that prosecutions for “killing or harming protected bald and golden eagles dropped sharply in recent years, even as officials ramped up issuing permits that will allow wind energy companies to kill thousands of eagles without legal consequence.”
“They are rolling over backwards for wind companies,” said a former U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist, quoted in the report. “I think they are killing a hell of a lot more eagles than they ever anticipated.”
He might have added: “… or needed to.”
Federal wind and solar subsidies for NextEra alone have already exceeded billions of dollars. NextEra is just one of many firms soaking up other people’s money to create trivial amounts of power on needlessly huge tracts of land.
This is not a wise use of the environment or tax dollars, and it’s a horrid energy policy.
Eagles and many other raptors threatened by wind turbines are apex predators—no wild creatures try to kill them. NextEra wouldn’t be in the dirty business of killing them either, if not for the lure of other people’s money.
The habitat of another apex predator is threatened by this reckless use of other people’s money: rural Americans. But unlike the eagles, they fight back.
The New and True Environmentalists
Enjoying the scenery of undeveloped land is an obvious motivation for the people who choose to live beyond city lights. They pay their mortgages to enjoy open skies of starlight on clear nights. They don’t want a dozen miles of blinking red-light pollution atop giant turbine towers. These are some of the “other people” whose money is taken and given to corporations such as NextEra.
Robert Bryce’s “Renewable Rejection Database” chronicles the backlash against this invasion. As of early October 2023, his database included at least 581 rejections. The database includes at least 18 instances of local governments in 12 states successfully repelling NextEra wind turbine projects. There are also three instances of NextEra solar panel plans getting ditched by locals in three states.
But even when NextEra beats the locals, it can’t do it gracefully.
In January 2013, a bald eagle nest was removed to make way for a NextEra wind facility near a tiny town in Ontario, Canada. Local resident Esther Wrightman had been trying to halt the project since 2009. Her modest and ultimately unsuccessful effort included production of a website with a video showing the nest being removed. The video begins with a snarky reimagining of the company name and logo as “NexTerror.”
According to Robert Bryce, NextEra responded with a lawsuit, asserting that Wrightman’s behavior and parody of the name was “violating Canada’s Competition Act, a law that is aimed at preventing anti-competitive business practices.”
Writing in July 2015, Bryce explained that Wrightman was the “30-something” wife of a disabled husband, with two children, whose income the prior year was $23,500. In its litigation, according to Bryce, NextEra claimed that this is the person who had “earned direct and indirect profits and benefits” from her protest and inflicted “serious and immediate irreparable harm” on the energy conglomerate then worth roughly $30 billion.
Wrightman and her family fled Ontario for New Brunswick after NextEra’s turbines began spinning near her home. Seven years later, the firm’s market capitalization had grown by almost $100 billion. So much for the “serious and immediate irreparable harm.” Yet, NextEra’s lawsuit is still pending, according to Wrightman, who was contacted for this report in mid-October 2023.
Robert Bryce correctly surmised it is a classic example of a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation. SLAPP’s are assaults on free expression used by governments and large corporations to silence critics who usually don’t have the personal resources to endure costly court battles.
With the Sierra Club and others in the tank for big wind and solar firms, Wrightman and the local people profiled in Bryce’s renewable rejection database are the new and true environmentalists. They are protecting the land against needless weather-dependent energy violations and preserving it for the benefit of the people and creatures who live there.
In the next installment, “exceedingly rare” wind turbine fires have become a growing concern.