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California group sues wind companies over bird deaths

California group sues wind companies over bird deaths
SAN FRANCISCO - A California environmental group has sued to force the operators of one of North America's largest windmill farms to take steps to reduce the number of birds killed in the turbines' propellers, court papers showed.

The Center for Biological Diversity charges the windmills have killed thousands of golden eagles, western burrowing owls and red-tailed hawks which flock to the wind-swept canyon along Altamont pass some 50 miles east of San Francisco.

"We are an environmental group and absolutely support alternative energy. It is just in this case it is the worst location in North America in terms of killing birds of prey," said spokesman Jeff Miller.

The farm is located along a migratory route and boasts one of the highest concentrations of birds of prey in the world - making it critical to cut down on the bird deaths, he said.

The lawsuit charges the bird kills violate state Fish and Game Code provisions and names FPL Energy (FPL.N: Quote, Profile, Research) , GREP, Green Ridge Power, Altamont Power, Enxco, Seawest Windpower, Windworks, Altamont Winds and Pacific Winds.

FPL Energy spokesman Steve Stengel said he had no comment because his company - the nation's largest operator of wind turbines - had not yet seen the lawsuit. Seawest Windpower had no comment while the other companies could not immediately be reached.

The environmental group, which filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in San Francisco on Monday, estimates about 8,000 birds are killed each year, including some 880 to 1,300 raptors such as hawks, owls, falcons, eagles and kestrels.

The lawsuit seeks compensation for past bird deaths to fund new wildlife habitat and it calls on the companies to install newer-turbines and to take other steps to reduce the number of birds killed.

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