Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, June 5, 2020


Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495,

Trump Administration Releases Draft Plan to Allow Widespread Bird-killing at Industrial Sites

Faux Analysis Seeks to Justify Current Policy Opposed by Eight States

WASHINGTON— The Trump administration released a draft environmental impact statement today for a rule to allow indiscriminate killing of birds at industrial sites across the country, including oil and gas operations.

The administration is conducting the review even though it has already put the policy in place under a December 2017 legal opinion by the Solicitor of the Department of Interior and former Koch Industries employee, Daniel Jorjani.

The opinion upended decades of enforcement of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act by concluding that “incidental killing” of birds is not prohibited by the century-old law. By conducting this rule making process, changes to the Act will be more difficult to reverse.

“This faux environmental review is a thinly veiled attempt to shield the Trump administration’s disastrous bird-killing policy from being overturned by a new administration,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The administration’s radical change in policy has already allowed the killing of thousands of birds across the country. If it’s allowed to stand it will only magnify ongoing and severe bird declines that are pushing us toward a real silent spring.”

Since the Jorjani opinion, bald eagles, snowy owls and other raptors have been electrocuted by perching on uninsulated power lines in Delaware, Maryland, Tennessee and North Dakota – with no consequences for the responsible utilities. Oil spills in Massachusetts, Idaho and Washington, all of which caused the subsequent deaths of many birds, did not prompt any penalties. Landscapers in San Diego were reported to have thrown live mourning dove chicks into a tree shredder, prompting a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services agent to go undercover to investigate. But the case was closed with no action taken due to the changed policy.

The rule also appears to be an attempt to work around a lawsuit brought by six conservation groups and eight states challenging Jorjani’s legal opinion as a violation of federal environmental law. That case is pending in federal court in New York.

Under the policy already in effect, which reversed decades of bipartisan implementation of the law, corporate polluters can kill birds with impunity through construction of waste ponds, oil spills, power lines or other actions without having to minimize or mitigate those deaths.

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, for example, is estimated to have killed more than a million birds. BP paid more than $100 million in fines to support wetland and migratory bird conservation because of those deaths. Under the new policy, the company would not have had to pay for the damage it did.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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