In Leonard Cohen’s well-known tune, a fowl on a wire is an emblem of freedom, however for hundreds of birds it’s the equal of being despatched to the electrical chair.
Now, in a landmark case, a Spanish electrical energy firm is being prosecuted over the deaths of tons of of birds electrocuted on pylons and overhead cables and for failing to adjust to rules designed to guard wildlife.
After a three-year investigation, Antoni Pelegrín, the legal professional basic for the setting in Barcelona, has introduced a case for ecological crimes in opposition to the electrical energy firm Endesa and 6 of its senior executives for allegedly failing to fulfill security necessities.
The lawsuit claims that between 2018 and 2020 255 birds had been electrocuted on pylons close to Osona in northern Catalonia. Most had been storks, eagles, peregrine falcons and vultures.
Individually, over three days in August 2018, 72 migrating white storks had been electrocuted in Sant Quirze de Besora, additionally in northern Catalonia. An extra 93 had been electrocuted within the space between 2019 and 2020.
It is a worldwide downside however it’s notably extreme in Spain as a result of the Iberian peninsula and the strait of Gibraltar lie on one of many principal avian migratory routes, with hundreds of thousands of birds crossing the Pyrenees yearly.
In keeping with the Spanish Ornithology Society (search engine optimisation), electrocution is the commonest reason for dying of golden and Bonelli’s eagles, each of that are endangered species. It’s estimated that round 33,000 birds of prey are electrocuted yearly in Spain.
Whereas small birds could face little threat, for bigger species there may be the hazard that once they unfold their wings they contact an inadequately insulated pylon and turn out to be, fatally, a part of the circuit.
Nicólas López, the search engine optimisation’s species conservation officer who was concerned in investigating the case in opposition to Endesa, instructed the Guardian there are literally thousands of harmful towers in Spain and roughly one million kilometres of electrical cables.
“These trigger the dying not solely of hundreds of birds by means of electrocution however our report estimates round 5 million die by means of colliding with the cables,” he stated.
“In France it’s thought that at the least 1 million birds are electrocuted annually. A authorities report means that the determine in Spain is nearer 3 million.
“We’ve identified about the issue and the measures that have to be taken to stop electrocution for the reason that Eighties, however they’re nonetheless placing up new strains that don’t adjust to the rules,” he stated.
He provides that there’s little political will to place strain on these firms, that are among the many strongest in Spain.
The price of complying in the course of the erection of latest pylons is trivial, López says, however it’s costlier for current pylons.
Within the swimsuit, Pelegrín factors out that Endesa is topic to legal guidelines that oblige it “to undertake the required measures to keep away from dangers or harm incurred by means of transporting electrical energy not solely to folks however the flora, fauna and the setting generally”.
In 2013, Endesa introduced the Catalan regional authorities with a plan to make sure its energy strains conformed with authorized necessities. Nevertheless, the swimsuit contends that, 5 years later, the corporate had solely made piecemeal changes to its strains regardless of “having been required and repeatedly knowledgeable of the necessity to perform a critical and efficient plan to make protected these harmful installations”.
The corporate, which has not formally responded to the cost, claims that this yr it would make investments €4.6m (£4m) in fowl safety and that in 2020 it made protected 659 pylons at a price of €2.2m.
In 2018, in a historic ruling, a court docket in Castilla-La Mancha fined an electrical energy firm €149,920 for inflicting the dying by electrocution of an Iberian imperial eagle, which is an endangered species.
López hopes the case in opposition to Endesa will enhance strain on firms to adjust to environmental rules.
“We expect this case is de facto essential as a result of it isn’t simply in opposition to the corporate but additionally brings legal fees in opposition to six of its senior executives,” he stated. “This makes it completely different from simply fining the corporate, the price of which they cross on to the patron anyway. However we all know they’ve some huge cash to rent attorneys and will drag the case out for years.”