Eight blue states are suing the Trump administration for relaxing rules that hold individuals and companies liable for the accidental deaths of endangered birds.
New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood is leading the lawsuit to preserve a January 2017 order by former President Barack Obama that criminalized any action that accidentally harms an endangered bird. The policy had been enforced for decades before the Obama order, though somewhat inconsistently, under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA).
“In yet another giveaway to special interests at the expense of our states, the Trump administration has gutted the Migratory Bird Treaty Act — eliminating longstanding prohibitions on injuring or killing over 300 species of migratory birds that provide critical ecological, scientific, and economic value to New York,” Underwood, a Democrat, said in a statement. “Our coalition will fight to reverse this reckless and illegal action – just as we have successfully beaten back so many of the Trump administration’s destructive policies.”
California, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico and Oregon are the other states involved in the lawsuit.
The Obama administration unequally prosecuted energy companies — who pay the brunt of fines for unintentionally killing protected birds — for violating the MBTA. Solar and wind farms are responsible for the deaths of hundreds of birds, but they were let off for years under the Obama administration. (RELATED: Trump Will Reverse Obama’s Policy Of Prosecuting Unintentional Bird Killing)
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke reversed the Obama directive in December and issued a legal memo that the MBTA would only be interpreted to criminalize intentional harming of protected birds. The move drew protests from Democrats and environmentalists. Energy companies, including the industry interest group Solar Energy Industries of America (SEIA), supported the Trump administration policy.
“This is a welcome change,” SEIA Vice President Christopher Mansour told The Daily Caller News Foundation in December. “These are sensible reforms that provide much-needed clarity and regulatory certainty to solar developers.”
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