A bipartisan group of former government officials this week urged the Trump administration to reconsider its decision to ease rules energy companies have to follow on bird kills.
“This is a new, contrived legal standard that creates a huge loophole, allowing companies to engage in activities that routinely kill migratory birds so long as they were not intending that their operations would ‘render an animal subject to human control,” said the 17 authors of the letter, which include Department of the Interior officials from the Carter, Nixon, Ford, George H.W. Bush, Clinton, George W. Bush, and Obama administrations.
The Trump administration recently issued a new interpretation of the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which is used to prosecute energy companies for killing birds in the course of their operations. The law is worded broadly, and makes it illegal to “pursue, hunt, take, [or] capture” a migratory bird “by any means whatever [and] at any time or in any manner.”
But the Trump administration said applying the law “to incidental or accidental actions hangs the sword of Damocles over a host of otherwise lawful and productive actions, threatening up to six months in jail and a $15,000 fine for each and every bird injured or killed.”
Interior’s new interpretation of the law said a company violates the law only when it’s “engaged in an activity the object of which was to render an animal subject to human control.” Interior’s Acting Solicitor Daniel Jorjani released a Dec. 22 legal opinion on the matter.