From NPR: The new Secretary of the Interior, responsible for the protection of our natural resources, is a former gas and oil lobbyist. Bernhardt says that responsible energy development on public lands is good for both American taxpayers and towns dependent on oil, gas or coal.
The Department of the Interior manages one-fifth of all the land in the United States, including the wealth of oil, natural gas and coal below the ground. Under the Trump administration, oil and gas leases on public lands managed by the department last year generated $360 million, an almost 90 percent increase from 2016. Late last year he erased a chapter on climate change from the department’s handbook. Ruch said Bernhardt also advocated for rolling back Endangered Species Act protections and relaxing methane rules for oil and gas companies.
The Migratory Bird Treaty Act, established over a hundred years ago, is also being challenged. The act provides sweeping protections for many species, making it illegal “by any means or in any manner” to “pursue, hunt, take, capture, kill, attempt to take, capture or kill, possess, offer for sale, sell, offer to purchase, purchase,” ship, or receive birds or bird parts, nests, or eggs from listed species without a federal permit. But the administration is now interpreting the act as a law to protect birds from intentional killing. In other words, polluting the water or air, spraying pesticides, putting up towers or lines, or anything else that endangers birds is just fine because it wasn’t done to intentionally kill birds. So an oil executive can’t be held responsible for killing birds due to an accidental oil spill. He’d have to go out and shoot the birds.
According to the Washington Post: The Trump administration made it clear this week that it is sapping the strength of a century-old law to protect birds, issuing guidance that the law would not be used as it has been to hold people or companies accountable for killing the animals.
In an opinion issued to federal wildlife police who enforce the rule, the Interior Department said “the take [killing] of birds resulting from an activity is not prohibited by the Migratory Bird Treaty Actwhen the underlying purpose of that activity is not to take birds.” For example, the guidance said, a person who destroys a structure such as a barn knowing that it is full of baby owls in nests is not liable for killing them. “All that is relevant is that the landowner undertook an action that did not have the killing of barn owls as its purpose,” the opinion said.
According to the Defenders of Wildlife: “This new interpretation flies in the face of what every administration since the 1970s has held to be true: The Migratory Bird Treaty Act strictly prohibits the unregulated killing of birds,” said Jamie Rappaport Clark, Defenders’ president and CEO. “Trump’s Interior Department has gone out of its way to turn the Act’s straightforward language into a giant loophole for companies whose activities routinely kill birds.”
Every time I think OK, the Trump administration has gone too far, the next day it gets worse.