Deb Haaland Strikes Again With Reversal Of Trump Environmental Sabotage

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Interior Secretary Deb Haaland has moved to restore protections for migratory birds that were substantially weakened by the Trump administration.

The Trump administration’s original action seems almost cartoonishly damaging. No matter the longstanding law known as the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the Trump administration imposed new provisions “allowing industry and individuals to unintentionally kill any number of birds,” as The Washington Post explains. On Thursday, the Biden administration proposed a rule that would restore “protections under the 102-year-old law that governed… accidental killings of birds by people and organizations such as oil and gas companies that fail to take proper precautions to not harm the animals,” as the Post adds. Now, interests that, through recklessness, accidentially kill birds are set to again face federal penalties.

Haaland commented as follows:

‘The Migratory Bird Treaty Act is a bedrock environmental law that is critical to protecting migratory birds and restoring declining bird populations. Today’s actions will serve to better align Interior with its mission and ensure that our decisions are guided by the best-available science.’

The Trump administration had imposed a rule that specifically insisted that only purposeful targetings of birds were prohibited under the original Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA). With Trump and his political allies in place across the government, the Interior Department “ordered wildlife police to ignore what had been a crime,” the Post explains, leaving reckless killings of birds in the U.S. outside the purview of federal environmental authorities. The Trump administration explicitly noted that, although the Interior Department had previously “pursued MBTA claims against companies responsible for oil spills that incidentally killed or injured migratory birds,” that “avenue” was “no longer available.”

Fines that had previously been imposed by the federal government under the provisions of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act covered incidents including the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the Exxon Valdez oil tanker disaster off the Alaska coast back in 1989. Sarah Greenberger, who serves as senior vice president of conservation for the Audubon Society, commented as follows:

‘We’re confident in the Biden administration’s commitment to both bring these protections back and to strengthen them. We hope to see the administration follow quickly with another rulemaking to establish a reasonable permitting approach for incidental take. A permitting program is a common-sense approach to clarifying these long-standing protections and providing the certainty industry wants.’

“Incidental take” is a technical term for the accidental killings of birds. The Trump administration’s attempt to impose a blanket allowance for these accidental killings was dragged out in court struggles, but they eventually got their rule imposed. The Trump team frequently prioritized big business over environmental protection.