This article first appeared in the Washington Examiner. Examiner columnist Ron Arnold is executive vice president of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise.
Free-market advocates have a hard time explaining that being anti-environmentalist is not the same as being anti-environment. Big Green has done such a thorough job of casting itself as nature’s selfless, altruistic guardian that supporters don’t even notice that their rants against “money-grubbing polluters” always end with “Send Money.”
Craig Rucker, executive director of the Washington-based Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, or CFACT, knows all about that. He is forever defending his nonprofit group’s motto — “Prospering Lives. Promoting Progress. Protecting the Earth.” — as being more than a clever application of alliteration.
I spoke to Rucker this week about his organization’s latest project, which is to save the bald eagle and the golden eagle from the federal government. He’s warning the public that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed a “rule” that would allow wind turbine operators to “take” (bureaucratspeak for “kill”) bald eagles and golden eagles. And Rucker urged concerned citizens to vociferously oppose the pro-wind industry, bird-killing rule during the FWS’ public comment period.
This is the same Rucker whom I described in a column last month as flogging the environmentalists who arranged the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janiero. I asked him how he could thrash the Rio+20 U.N. environmentalists for paralyzing industry with their “sustainable development” plans, then turn around and wallop the clean energy industry for killing birds that environmentalists claim as their wards.
Rucker came back at me with that distinction between environmentalists and the environment. “Just because some self-appointed savior claims to have full custody of nature while the rest of us only have supervised visitation doesn’t mean it’s true,” he said.
“But consider the consequences of the FWS rule if it goes into effect,” Rucker continued. “It would make these magnificent birds vanish from many parts of the country — especially if wind turbines get permits to proliferate near eagle habitats without even knowing where they are.”
It sounds like Obama crony capitalism that exempts wind turbine operators from the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, felony violations of which carry a maximum fine of $250,000 or two years of imprisonment (the fine doubles for an organization).
Rucker’s public pressure campaign sounds like another side of the FWS issue that the American Bird Conservancy is pursuing in the courts. Three weeks ago, the Washington-based group filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against the FWS for “failing to provide correspondences with wind developers and other data on the impacts to birds and bats near wind projects in 10 states.”
Kelly Fuller, wind campaign coordinator for ABC, said in a news release, “It’s ridiculous that Americans have to sue in order to find out what their government is saying to wind companies about our wildlife.”
True, said Rucker, but receiving the withheld documents will waste a lot of taxpayer money and won’t make the FWS reconsider its rule. “We need meaningful action, not quarreling over who said what,” he said.
Rucker’s CFACT is concerned with the approximately 440,000 birds killed annually by windmills, but also takes note of the subsidy aspect of wind turbine siting, since it tends to be hidden in tax credits.
“We’re not trying to punish industry, as environmentalists do, but to get enough information to allow wind energy economics to work with nature in productive harmony. Profits and wildlife should both be capitalist outputs.”
And that is the difference between opposing environmentalists and opposing the environment.