By Julian Hattem - 11/25/13 05:08 PM EST
The Obama administration is playing favorites when it comes to charging energy companies for illegally killing protected birds, according to Sen. David Vitter (R-La.).
Vitter said that the Justice Department’s (DOJ) $1 million settlement with Duke Energy, the first of its kind against a wind energy firm, is just a token measure meant to distract from its pattern of penalizing fossil fuel companies for the same charges.
“The instances of wind energy’s favoritism have been so egregious under this Administration, and DOJ’s settlement and response still don’t explain the Administration’s obvious bias.”
On Friday, the Justice Department announced that Duke Energy had killed 14 golden eagles and 149 other protected birds at two wind farms in Wyoming. The birds can be killed while they scan the ground for food but ignore the looming blades ahead.
The same day, the department sent a letter responding to concerns from Vitter and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) that it was ignoring illegal activity at wind farms.
In the letter, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Elliot Williams wrote that the DOJ “neither targets energy businesses for enforcement nor excuses them from enforcement because of the type of energy they produce.”
In recent years, officials have reached settlements with large oil-and-gas companies like Exxon-Mobil, which paid a $600,000 fine and implemented an environmental compliance plan in 2009.
The president has been a strong and vocal supporter of wind power during his time in office. Under the Obama administration, the wind energy sector has grown by about 30 percent each year.