The Trump administration is on an environmental deregulation spree.
Last month, the Trump administration said it would block a rule that would swap older lightbulbs for new, energy-efficient ones. Last week, it halted Obama-era protections for the country’s wetlands and waterways. And as of Thursday, it’s proposing a regulation that would erase punishments for companies that “incidentally” kill birds while they work, The New York Times reports.
Under the proposal, oil and gas companies wouldn’t be punished if a spill killed birds like in the past. Construction crews that kill birds during work would be spared, as would farmers who spray pesticides. Even companies owning wind turbines that strike and kill birds wouldn’t be faulted — an ironic consequence considering Trump often rails against windmills for apparently massacring birds even though they do so less than other energy sources.
The rule change comes from a 2017 Interior Department opinion regarding the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Previous administrations had interpreted the act “too broadly,” the agency had argued, and it determined the act was only supposed to punish “actions explicitly intended to kill birds,” the Times writes. This interpretation had already led the Trump administration to “discourage local governments and businesses from taking simple precautionary measures to protect birds,” and pushed federal wildlife authorities to largely stop investigating bird deaths, per the Times.
Conservation groups and some states previously sued the administration over the opinion, and a group of former Interior Department officials filed a brief in support of the suit last week. Read more at The New York Times. Kathryn Krawczyk