The Washington Post revealed Tuesday that the Trump administration will no longer use the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) to punish energy companies for accidentally killing birds. A legal opinion from the Interior Department’s solicitor’s office says the administration believes the 100-year-old law—intended to protect birds from people—should no longer cover accidental deaths, including those caused by oil rigs, wind turbines, and other energy sources.
“Interpreting the MBTA to apply to incidental or accidental actions hangs the sword of Damocles over a host of otherwise lawful and productive actions, threatening up to six months in jail and a $ 15,000 penalty for each and every bird injured or killed,” wrote principal deputy solicitor Daniel Jorjani. Before joining the administration, Jorjani “worked as general counsel for Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, a project of the billionaire oil executives Charles G. and David H. Koch,” the Post notes.
Trump campaigned on protecting birds from energy sources—wind power, specifically. “The wind kills all your birds,” Trump, then the Republican nominee for president, told his supporters at a rally in Pennsylvania last year. (Wind energy does kill birds, but so does every other energy source at comparable rates.) And yet, since taking office, he’s allowed drilling within America’s largest bird nursery. He’s proposed weakening the environmental review of huge infrastructure projects, a process that protects birds. And he’s pushed pro-fossil fuel development policies that expand threats to bird habitats.