In Leonard Cohen’s well-known track, a hen on a wire is a logo of freedom, however for 1000’s 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 normal for the surroundings 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 satisfy 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 additional 93 had been electrocuted within the space between 2019 and 2020.
It is a worldwide drawback however it’s significantly extreme in Spain as a result of the Iberian peninsula and the strait of Gibraltar lie on one of the principal avian migratory routes, with tens of millions of birds crossing the Pyrenees yearly.
In response to the Spanish Ornithology Society (web optimization), electrocution is the commonest trigger of demise 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 might face little threat, for bigger species there may be the hazard that after they unfold their wings they contact an inadequately insulated pylon and grow to be, fatally, half of the circuit.
Nicólas López, the web optimization’s species conservation officer who was concerned in investigating the case in opposition to Endesa, instructed the Guardian there are 1000’s of harmful towers in Spain and roughly 1,000,000 kilometres of electrical cables.
“These trigger the demise not solely of 1000’s of birds by means of electrocution however our report estimates round 5 million die by means of colliding with the cables,” he mentioned.
“In France it’s thought that at the very least 1 million birds are electrocuted every year. A authorities report means that the determine in Spain is nearer 3 million.
“We’ve identified about the issue and the measures that must be taken to stop electrocution for the reason that Nineteen Eighties, however they’re nonetheless placing up new strains that don’t adjust to the rules,” he mentioned.
He provides that there’s little political will to place strain on these corporations, that are among the many strongest in Spain.
The price of complying throughout the erection of new pylons is trivial, López says, however it’s costlier for current pylons.
Within the go well with, Pelegrín factors out that Endesa is topic to legal guidelines that oblige it “to undertake the mandatory measures to keep away from dangers or harm incurred by means of transporting electrical energy not solely to individuals however the flora, fauna and the surroundings generally”.
In 2013, Endesa offered the Catalan regional authorities with a plan to make sure its power strains conformed with authorized necessities. Nevertheless, the go well with 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 severe and efficient plan to make secure these harmful installations”.
The corporate, which has not formally responded to the cost, claims that this yr it’ll make investments €4.6m (£4m) in hen safety and that in 2020 it made secure 659 pylons at a value 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 demise by electrocution of an Iberian imperial eagle, which is an endangered species.
López hopes the case in opposition to Endesa will enhance strain on corporations to adjust to environmental rules.
“We predict this case is basically essential as a result of it isn’t simply in opposition to the corporate but in addition brings felony prices in opposition to six of its senior executives,” he mentioned. “This makes it completely different from simply fining the corporate, the associated fee of which they go on to the patron anyway. However we all know they’ve rather a lot of cash to rent attorneys and will drag the case out for years.”