Nov 27, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Trump administration to ease rules on companies killing birds

Picture of birds in front of a nuclear plant

Photo: Andrew Cabllero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

The Trump administration released an analysis on Friday finding that its proposed rule easing companies’ liability for killing birds would not cause any substantial environmental harm, the Washington Post first reported.

Why it matters: As President Trump moves to lock in various regulatory changes before President-elect Biden is inaugurated, this analysis is a key step toward finalizing rules that allow businesses to avoid fines for accidentally killing migratory birds.

Details: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposes in its analysis a new rule that will modify its interpretation of the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act — which protects birds from industrial and other threats — so that only intentional killings result in fines.

  • Previous administrations have used the law to fine companies for accidentally killing migratory birds, known as "incidental take."
  • For decades, prosecutors have sought fines of up to $15,000 per bird for accidental deaths, according to the Post.

Reality check via the Post: "The analysis suggests, however, that finalizing the rule would 'likely result in increased bird mortality' because companies would have less of an incentive to adopt precautions to prevent them from becoming ensnared or colliding with their operations."

What to watch: According to Bloomberg Law, legal experts expect the incoming Biden administration to explore ways to reverse the rule, scheduled to be finalized as early as Dec. 28.

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