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Work has started on what could be the nation’s biggest wind farm and is a $3bn project backed by a fossil fuel tycoon. The project could deliver clean energy to more than one million customers, but some fear that the 3,000 wind turbines will destroy critical habitats for species.
Source: Los Angeles Times/YouTube
On top of it all, 82-year-old Philip Anschutz, whose fortune came from exploiting fossil fuels, has been controversial, to say the least. In a 2019 Forbes interview, he was asked if he was going to greenwash his reputation. “No,” he replied. “We’re doing it to make money.”
The Power Company of Wyoming, an affiliate of The Anschutz Corporation, says that the project will generate over 3,000 megawatts of clean, sustainable electricity.
Anschutz has been trying to build the project, TransWest Express, since 2008 and has spent millions of dollars preparing his land in Wyoming as well as lobbying for use of the land. At first, Wyoming said that the area was a “core habitat” for safe grouse, but in 2014, they changed their minds and gave Anschutz the greenlight.
Activists say that the damage that Anschutz’s plan will do to the environment far outweighs the benefits that it will do for the environment. Environmentalists have been urging him to move to a location that will be less environmentally harmful.
Erik Molvar, executive director of the Western Watersheds Project told The Independent that the project will wipe out sage grouse over hundreds of thousands of acres and lead to the extinction of golden eagles in the area.
“The project is a massive wind farm that’s going to generate a lot of renewable energy, but it’s going to be an environmental disaster,” Molvar, told The Independent.
The eagles and other birds can fly into the blades because they cannot see them. Recently, a subsidiary of one of the largest renewable energy providers in the United States pleaded guilty to criminal charges after at least 150 eagles were killed at their wind farms in eight states. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act says it is illegal to kill or harm eagles, but many industries still believe they should not be held accountable for birds that are killed because of their operations.
Eagles have faced many threats caused by humans, like lead poisoning, hunting, wind farms, and many other issues. Although they are not technically under protection from the Endangered Species Act anymore, the numbers are still lower than they should be. Most of the eagles killed at the wind farms were golden eagles, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2,200 are killed every year due to human activity, and that number will likely continue to increase.
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