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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A "trash tsunami" has washed ashore on the beaches of Honduras, endangering both wildlife and the local economy.
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More long-finned pilot whales were found stranded today on beaches in Tasmania, Australia. About 500 whales have become stranded, including at least 380 that have died, the AP reported. It is the largest mass stranding in Australia's recorded history.
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By Harry Kretchmer
By 2030, almost a third of all the energy consumed in the European Union must come from renewable sources, according to binding targets agreed in 2018. Sweden is helping lead the way.
Sweden is a world leader in renewable energy consumption. Swedish Institute/World Bank
Naturally Warm<p>54% of Sweden's power comes from renewables, and is helped by its geography. With plenty of moving water and 63% forest cover, it's no surprise the <a href="https://sweden.se/nature/energy-use-in-sweden/#" target="_blank">two largest renewable power sources</a> are hydropower and biomass. And that biomass is helping support a local energy boom.</p><p>Heating is a key use of energy in a cold country like Sweden. In recent decades, as fuel oil taxes have increased, the country's power companies have turned to renewables, like biomass, to fuel local 'district heating' plants.</p><p>In Sweden these trace their <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank">origins back to 1948</a>, when a power station's excess heat was first used to heat nearby buildings: steam is <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/district-heating-system" target="_blank">forced along a network of pipes</a> to wherever it's needed. Today, there are around 500 district heating systems across the country, from major cities to small villages, providing heat to homes and businesses.</p><p>District heating used to be fueled mainly from the <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140" target="_blank">by-products of power plants</a>, waste-to-energy plants and industrial processes. These days, however, Sweden is bringing more renewable sources into the mix. And as a result of competition, this localized form of power is now the country's<a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> home-heating market leader.</a></p>
Sweden is using smart grids to turn buildings into energy producers. Huang et al/Elsevier
Energy ‘Prosumers’<p>But Sweden doesn't stop at village-level heating solutions. Its new breed of energy-generation takes hyper-local to the next level.</p><p>One example is in the city of Ludivika where 1970s flats <a href="https://www.buildup.eu/sites/default/files/content/transforming-a-residential-building-cluster-into-electricity-prosumers-in-sweden.pdf" target="_blank">have recently been retrofitted with the latest smart energy technology</a>.</p><p>48 family apartments spread across 3 buildings have been given photovoltaic solar panels, thermal energy storage and heat pump systems. A micro energy grid connects it all, and helps charge electric cars overnight.</p><p>The result is a cluster of 'prosumer' buildings, producing rather than consuming enough power for 77% of residents' needs. With <a href="http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:1232060/FULLTEXT01.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">high levels of smart meter usage</a>, it's a model that looks set to spread across Sweden.</p>
<div id="d7bf9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8757b138d5570bec9d6aad18074a429a"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1273556364263071744" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Read more about Western Harbour and book a visit: https://t.co/ujSmVs9rNK 🏡🌳🌊 https://t.co/C5PuPziqIM</div> — Smart City Sweden (@Smart City Sweden)<a href="https://twitter.com/SmartCitySweden/statuses/1273556364263071744">1592474473.0</a></blockquote></div>
Scaling Up<p>A recent development by E.ON in Hyllie, a district on the outskirts of Malmö, southern Sweden, <a href="https://www.eonenergy.com/blog/2019/February/sweden-smart-city" target="_blank">has scaled up the smart grid principle</a>. Energy generation comes from local wind, solar, biomass and waste sources.</p><p>Smart grids then balance the power, react to the weather, deploying extra power when it's colder or putting excess into battery storage when it's warm. The system is not only more efficient, but bills have fallen.</p><p>Smart energy developments like those in Hyllie, Ludivika, and renewable-driven district heating, offer a radical alternative to the centralized energy systems many countries rely on today.</p><p>The EU's leaders have a challenge: how to generate 32% of energy from renewables by 2030. Sweden offers a vision of how technology and local solutions can turn a goal into a reality.</p>
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By Jessica Corbett
In another win for climate campaigners, leaders of 12 major cities around the world — collectively home to about 36 million people — committed Tuesday to divesting from fossil fuel companies and investing in a green, just recovery from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
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