Trump Admin Moves to Weaken Restrictions on Killing Migratory Birds
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The new Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) proposal would mean that fossil fuel companies, developers, power companies and other industries would not be penalized under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 for "incidentally" killing birds, The New York Times reported. Only actions that intentionally targeted birds would be prosecuted. The proposal would formalize a 2017 legal opinion that has already led the FWS, which is part of the Department of Interior, to stop investigating the majority of bird deaths.
"The Trump Administration's Bird Killer Department, formerly known as the Department of the Interior, just gets crueler and more craven every day," Audubon Society President and CEO David Yarnold said in response. "And today they are doubling down despite the fact that America did not elect this administration to kill birds."
The Trump administration’s Bird Killer Department—formerly known as the @Interior—just gets crueler and more craven… https://t.co/cyJ7cmPPHw— David Yarnold 🐦🇺🇸 (@David Yarnold 🐦🇺🇸)1580410228.0
The Migratory Bird Treaty Act protects more than 1,000 species of birds from being hunted, captured or killed without permits, HuffPost explained. Since the 1970s, the federal government has used it to penalize companies when birds die on their power lines or in their oil pits, according to The New York Times. Conservation groups say the treaty has encouraged companies to take steps to prevent bird deaths, such as installing red lights on communication towers.
But the treaty was limited to focus only on intentional bird deaths in a 2017 legal opinion authored by top Interior Department lawyer Daniel Jorjani, who used to advise the Koch brothers, HuffPost reported.
Documents obtained by The New York Times found that since the opinion was issued, the federal government has largely stopped investigating bird deaths and the administration has dissuaded local governments and businesses from taking steps to protect birds.
But a legal opinion can easily be overturned by another administration, which is why the current one is working to get a new regulation on the books before the November election, senior vice president of conservation programs at Defenders of Wildlife Bob Dreber told The New York Times.
"They're trying to entrench this as much as they can, and get stuff locked into place," he said. "We're going to fight it."
🚨 Happening now: The Trump administration seeks to cripple the #MigratoryBirdTreatAct! 🚨 Learn more:… https://t.co/PixA7yGCcO— Defenders of Wildlife (@Defenders of Wildlife)1580418606.0
Six conservation groups including Defenders of Wildlife and the Audubon Society have sued to stop the legal guidance, as have eight states. Lawsuits will likely be filed to challenge Thursday's proposal as well, according to HuffPost.
"With a recent study finding there are 3 billion fewer birds in North America than 50 years ago, you'd think we'd want more protection for birds, not less," Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement reported by HuffPost. "This rule violates the trust and will of millions of Americans who love birds and want them around for future generations to enjoy."
However, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Aurelia Skipwith maintained in a press call reported by HuffPost that "migratory bird conservation is an integral part" of the agency's mission and that the proposed regulation was intended to free the agency from "a legal quagmire that doesn't benefit our conservation objectives."
She also said it would ensure that "private industry, which are critical to our nation's economy and overall well-being, can operate without the fear and uncertainty that the unintentional consequences of their actions will be prosecuted."
But that could mean letting industries off the hook for major environmental disasters, as Alan Zibel, the research director of Public Citizen's Corporate Presidency Project, said in a statement emailed to EcoWatch.
"If this rule had been in place at the time of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill, which killed more than one million birds, BP would not have had to pay $100 million in fines for violating federal laws that protect birds," Zibel said.
The new regulation will be posted to the Federal Register Monday, The New York Times explained, after which the public will have 45 days to comment.
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Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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