Federal Judge Rules Administration’s Bird-Killing Policy is Illegal
After Victory, Our Work Is Not Yet Done
In a major victory for the National Audubon Society and other conservation groups, a federal judge has overturned the Trump administration’s unprecedented attack on the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA), and restored its longstanding protections for birds. The court ruled that the MBTA does protect birds from industrial hazards, also known as “incidental take,” upholding the most effective bird protection law of our time.
U.S. District Court Judge Valerie Caproni ruled on August 11, 2020, that the legal opinion which serves as the basis for the Trump administration rollback of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act does not align with the intent and language of the 100-year-old law. In her ruling, Judge Caproni found that the policy “runs counter to the purpose of the MBTA to protect migratory bird populations” and is “contrary to the plain meaning of the MBTA”.
But our work is not yet done.
As definitive as the court’s opinion is, the practical effect in the short term may be minimal. The question of how broadly the MBTA will be applied is far from resolved. It remains highly unlikely that the Trump Administration, even if unsuccessful in reversing the decision on appeal, would commence enforcement of incidental take of migratory birds that occurred indirectly or even as a foreseeable result of legitimate business activity.
Also, the administration is nearing the end of a regulatory process to make the legal opinion ruled on by Judge Caproni permanent in the form of regulation. If the administration can finalize a rule codifying its interpretation prior to the election or a change in administrations, it may have a greater and more lasting effect than the court’s decision in this case.
“While we are very encouraged by the unambiguous district court decision, which validates our argument that the administration’s policy is in clear violation of the MBTA, the government could still appeal the decision. If they do so, we will continue to strongly defend the MBTA in court. At the same time, they could still move forward with a proposed regulation that would essentially reinstate this unlawful and harmful policy,” said Sarah Greenberger, Interim Chief Conservation Officer for the National Audubon Society.
Congress must pass the Migratory Bird Protection Act (MBPA) which would reverse the rollback of the MBTA and reinstate bird protections. There is still time for the House to vote on the MBPA this year.
You can help.
· Complete this Audubon Action Alert to let Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler know you support the MBPA.
· Share the Audubon Action Alert with family and friends.
· Share on social media. Please use #ProtectTheBirds in any tweets or Instagram posts around the Migratory Bird Treaty Act or Migratory Bird Protection Act.Tweet
By Susan Saul
City of Vancouver puts six-month hold on new bulk fossil fuel facilities
The construction of any new large-scale fossil fuel infrastructure businesses in the city of Vancouver has been halted, at least temporarily.
That decision was preceded by nearly two hours of public testimony, during which only one citizen spoke out in opposition to the temporary ban. Vancouver Audubon Society submitted written comments and verbal testimony in favor of the ban.
The moratorium was initially approved on June 8, by emergency ordinance, which required the council to hold a public hearing and a full vote within 60 days in order to uphold the ban.
That ordinance was introduced by Councilor Laurie Lebowsky, who said she wanted to give city staff time to craft a cohesive resilience plan without any new companies trying to obtain permits for a bulk fossil fuel business ahead of any changes.
“I want to do what we can to support a resiliency plan to promote safety and livability of our city,” said Lebowsky, “and focusing economic development on safe and renewable energy sources and green businesses.”
Under the moratorium, fossil fuels are defined as petroleum or petroleum-based products, as well as natural gases such as propane, methane, and butane. It would exempt byproducts such as fertilizer, paint, asphalt, plastics, and denatured ethanol.
A “large-scale” fossil fuel facility is defined as those engaged in the wholesale distribution, extraction, refinement or processing of fossil fuels, the bulk movement of fossil fuels, coal storage, coal power plants, natural gas processing facilities, storage and handling of natural gas, or bulk storage of more than two million gallons of any combination of fossil fuels.
Direct-to-consumer fossil fuel businesses, such as gas stations and propane refueling are exempt from the moratorium.
The city of Portland and the Port of Vancouver have already passed their own bans on new bulk fossil fuel terminals, and the city of Vancouver has taken a stance against increasing shipments of bulk crude on trains that run along the waterfront and through the west side of the city.
By Susan Saul