Energy & Environment

Trump administration proposes rolling back law protecting migratory birds

A new regulation set to be unveiled by the Interior Department would end most federal protections for migratory birds, allowing companies that accidentally kill such animals to not face punishments.

The New York Times reported that a rule change set to be announced by the agency as soon as Thursday would codify a legal opinion issued by the Interior Department in 2017 that found that laws established to protect migratory birds should not be applied in situations where animal deaths are accidental.

When in effect, the rule change would allow companies that do not establish safeguards to prevent the deaths of migratory birds to avoid facing penalties, as only deliberate killings would now be considered actionable. The change would come as the agency has already largely stopped investigating such deaths under the Trump administration, according to the Times.

The proposed change was immediately criticized by environmental groups, who said that it would allow companies to get away with not taking action to prevent accidental deaths.

“They’re trying to entrench this as much as they can, and get stuff locked into place,” said Bob Dreher of the advocacy group Defenders of Wildlife. “We’re going to fight it.”

Eight states, including California, have launched a legal effort to reverse the opinion issued by agency attorneys in 2017, and the new rule will likely face legal challenges, as well. Led by state Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D), California is also challenging the Trump administration’s efforts to change the Endangered Species Act.

“We don’t challenge these actions because we want to pick a fight, we challenge them because it is necessary,” Becerra said last year of the two lawsuits.

Updated at 11:15 a.m.

Tags Endangered Species Act Xavier Becerra

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