FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
FRIDAY, APRIL 19, 2002
TDD (202) 514-1888
HISTORIC AGREEMENT BETWEEN UNITED STATES AND XCEL ENERGY TO SAVE RAPTORS FROM ELECTROCUTION IN 12 STATES
Agreement Is The First Of Its Type Executed In The United States
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Department of Justice announced today a historic agreement with Xcel Energy in which the electric utility company will evaluate and alter its power lines to prevent the deaths of eagles, hawks and other migratory birds on over 90,000 miles of electric transmission lines throughout the nation's mid-section. The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) is the first of its type completed in the United States.
Under the MOU, Xcel Energy will undertake a comprehensive review of all of its equipment, power poles and lines and fix those that are likely to cause death or significant injury to birds. These actions will ensure the company's compliance with two major wildlife protection statutes, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. These laws impose criminal penalties when raptors and other protected species of birds are electrocuted on power lines. The agreement covers Xcel Energy's power lines in 12 states: Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
"This agreement lays out a common-sense solution that will utilize existing technology to protect our nation's birds from a terrible death of electrocution on power lines," said Tom Sansonetti, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division. "The fact we're announcing a cooperative solution rather than dragging the issue through litigation adds to my commitment to using this historic agreement as a model for other utilities to follow."
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) estimates that power line electrocutions, collisions with communications towers and other power-related threats kill an estimated tens of thousands of birds in the United States every year. These deaths contribute to the population declines observed in one-third of the 840 bird species in the nation; more than 90 of these declining species are already listed as threatened or endangered under federal law.
Birds with large wingspans, like raptors, run the highest risk of electrocution, which occurs when their bodies close a circuit between two wires. Such electrocutions frequently result in the interruption of electric power to consumers. Avian power-line electrocutions can often be prevented by using fairly simple protection measures developed by the electric power industry, such as wider spacing between lines, attractive perches away from dangerous locations and devices to prevent perching. The MOU process creates an incentive for companies to retrofit equipment and avoid prosecution while such work is carried out.
The MOU was developed by the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Justice Department following its 1999 criminal prosecution of Moon Lake Electric Association, Inc., a Utah-based electric power cooperative. The Moon Lake case represented the first time an electric power company had been prosecuted criminally for electrocuting protected birds. After pleading guilty to violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, Moon Lake was fined and sentenced to a probationary period during which the company was required to develop a comprehensive avian protection plan for its electric power lines in Utah and Colorado.
An MOU was developed with Moon Lake as a framework for this remediation procedure. Following the Moon Lake case, FWS and several power companies began to discuss a cooperative, non-litigative method for addressing the avian electrocution problem. The Moon Lake MOU was adapted for this purpose and several companies are presently negotiating MOUs with FWS.
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Xcel Energy's participating in this MOU process represents a continuation of the company's history of cooperating with the Service in efforts to protect migratory birds and other wildlife. The MOU was negotiated by Region Six of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Wildlife and Marine Resources Section of the Department of Justice and was signed at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal in Denver, Colo.