The U.S. Justice Department reported that ESI Energy Inc. (ESI) was sentenced April 5 in Cheyenne, Wyoming, for violations of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA). ESI is a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources LLC, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of NextEra Energy Inc.

ESI owns other companies, many of which operate wind energy generation facilities throughout the United States, including in Wyoming, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, North Dakota and Michigan, as well as other states.

ESI pleaded guilty to three counts of violating the MBTA, each based on the documented deaths of golden eagles due to blunt force trauma from being struck by a wind turbine blade at a particular facility in Wyoming or New Mexico, where ESI had not applied for the necessary permits. ESI further acknowledged that at least 150 bald and golden eagles have died in total since 2012, across 50 of its 154 wind energy facilities. Of those deaths, 136 have been affirmatively determined to be attributable to the eagle being struck by a wind turbine blade.

The court sentenced ESI, pursuant to a plea agreement, to a fine of $1,861,600, restitution in the amount of $6,210,991, and a five-year period of probation during which it must follow an Eagle Management Plan (EMP). The EMP requires implementation of up to $27 million (during the period of probation; more thereafter if a written extension is signed) of measures intended to minimize additional eagle deaths and injuries, and payment of compensatory mitigation for future eagle deaths and injuries of $29,623 per bald or golden eagle. Over the next 36 months, ESI must apply for permits for any unavoidable take of eagles at each of 50 of its facilities where take is documented or, in the case of four facilities not yet operational, predicted.

According to documents filed in court, it is the government’s position that ESI’s conduct violated both the Eagle Act and the MBTA, but the government accepted the company’s guilty plea to only MBTA counts due in large part to ESI’s agreement to apply for permits at 50 facilities and its prior efforts to minimize and mitigate for eagle fatalities.

ESI’s and its affiliated companies’ actions in Wyoming and New Mexico were taken under an admitted nationwide posture and alleged corporate policy of not applying for ETPs.