Trump Finalizes Rollback of Migratory Bird Treaty Act
By Julia Conley
Just over two weeks before President Donald Trump is set to leave the White House, his U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Tuesday finalized a rollback of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act—a law that's been in place since 1918 and which conservation groups credit with holding corporate polluters accountable for harming bird species.
In what the Western Values Project called a "parting gift to Big Oil by corrupt former oil lobbyist Interior Secretary David Bernhardt," the USFWS announced a new rule under which the federal government will no longer penalize or prosecute companies when their actions cause the inadvertent death of birds.
In the case of oil spills like the Deepwater Horizon disaster, which killed more than one million birds in 2010; electrocutions by power lines; ducks and other species stuck in fossil fuel tailings ponds; and illegal actions like the spraying of banned pesticides, companies will no longer be held to account as long as they don't intentionally kill birds.
Antithetical to its purpose, US Fish and Wildlife Service finalized a rule rolling back protections for migratory b… https://t.co/sC7gB0SX7R— Aric Caplan (@Aric Caplan)1609869659.0
When it was passed into law more than 100 years ago, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) made it illegal to hunt, take, capture, or kill birds from endangered species "by any means or in any manner."
Bernhardt said Tuesday the new rule "reaffirms the original meaning and intent of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act," while the Center for Western Priorities called it a "radical interpretation of the law."
"The Trump administration wants to make sure extractive industries can continue to kill birds after they leave office," said Jennifer Rokala, executive director of the group. "Secretary Bernhardt's former oil industry clients have explicitly asked for this policy change, and now he is delivering, just days before returning to the private sector. By finalizing this proposal, the Trump administration is signing the death warrants of millions of birds across the country."
Conservation groups pointed to data showing that three billion birds have been lost in North America since 1970, while six million fewer birds were counted by the Audubon Society in 2019 than previous tallies showed.
As Common Dreams reported in September, the wildfires that overwhelmed the West Coast last year were thought to be behind the deaths of thousands of migratory birds in the southwest.
"This brutal blow hits America's birds when many populations are already plummeting, so it's really the last thing they need," said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. "Trump officials are giving oil companies and other polluters a license to kill birds. Vast numbers of birds will be electrocuted by power lines, drowned in oil waste pits and killed in other easily preventable ways."
Advocates say the MBTA has worked in recent years to show the oil and gas industry that it will be held accountable if its activities kills birds. The federal government reached a $100 million settlement with BP after the Deepwater Horizon disaster.
Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.), who was named as President-elect Biden's nominee for Interior Secretary last month, is expected to repeal the USFWS's rule, but that process could take time. Meanwhile, Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.) introduced the Migratory Bird Protection Act last year as the administration was considering the rollback, with the aim of reaffirming the original law's intent of protecting vulnerable birds—not corporations.
Advocates also expressed hope that the federal courts will strike down what Greenwald called the Trump administration's "reckless attack on one of America's oldest and most important conservation laws," as Judge Valerie Caproni of the Southern District of New York did in August.
"There is nothing in the text of the MBTA that suggests that in order to fall within its prohibition, activity must be directed specifically at birds," Caproni said in her ruling at the time. "Nor does the statute prohibit only intentionally killing migratory birds."
The Trump administration is kicking off the new year and its remaining weeks—and, to add insult to injury,… https://t.co/uydTahSeao— Audubon Society (@Audubon Society)1609866426.0
Jamie Rappoport Clark, president and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife said the group would call on the Biden administration "to restore protections for birds immediately and affirm that the Migratory Bird Treaty Act prohibits incidental take."
"Even though a federal court already ruled that the Trump administration cannot eliminate protections for migratory birds, the administration continues its relentless campaign to undermine environmental protections and harm wildlife," said Clark.
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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Wisdom the mōlī, or Laysan albatross, is the oldest wild bird known to science at the age of at least 70. She is also, as of February 1, a new mother.
<div id="dadb2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="aa2ad8cb566c9b4b6d2df2693669f6f9"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1357796504740761602" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">🚨Cute baby alert! Wisdom's chick has hatched!!! 🐣😍 Wisdom, a mōlī (Laysan albatross) and world’s oldest known, ban… https://t.co/Nco050ztBA</div> — USFWS Pacific Region (@USFWS Pacific Region)<a href="https://twitter.com/USFWSPacific/statuses/1357796504740761602">1612558888.0</a></blockquote></div>
By Hui Hu
Winter is supposed to be the best season for wind power – the winds are stronger, and since air density increases as the temperature drops, more force is pushing on the blades. But winter also comes with a problem: freezing weather.
Comparing rime ice and glaze ice shows how each changes the texture of the blade. Gao, Liu and Hu, 2021, CC BY-ND
Ice buildup changes air flow around the turbine blade, which can slow it down. The top photos show ice forming after 10 minutes at different temperatures in the Wind Research Tunnel. The lower measurements show airflow separation as ice accumulates. Icing Research Tunnel of Iowa State University, CC BY-ND
While traditional investment in the ocean technology sector has been tentative, growth in Israeli maritime innovations has been exponential in the last few years, and environmental concern has come to the forefront.
theDOCK aims to innovate the Israeli maritime sector. Pexels<p>The UN hopes that new investments in ocean science and technology will help turn the tide for the oceans. As such, this year kicked off the <a href="https://www.oceandecade.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030)</a> to galvanize massive support for the blue economy.</p><p>According to the World Bank, the blue economy is the "sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystem," <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412019338255#b0245" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Science Direct</a> reported. It represents this new sector for investments and innovations that work in tandem with the oceans rather than in exploitation of them.</p><p>As recently as Aug. 2020, <a href="https://www.reutersevents.com/sustainability/esg-investors-slow-make-waves-25tn-ocean-economy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Reuters</a> noted that ESG Investors, those looking to invest in opportunities that have a positive impact in environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, have been interested in "blue finance" but slow to invest.</p><p>"It is a hugely under-invested economic opportunity that is crucial to the way we have to address living on one planet," Simon Dent, director of blue investments at Mirova Natural Capital, told Reuters.</p><p>Even with slow investment, the blue economy is still expected to expand at twice the rate of the mainstream economy by 2030, Reuters reported. It already contributes $2.5tn a year in economic output, the report noted.</p><p>Current, upward <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/-innovation-blue-economy-2646147405.html" target="_self">shifts in blue economy investments are being driven by innovation</a>, a trend the UN hopes will continue globally for the benefit of all oceans and people.</p><p>In Israel, this push has successfully translated into investment in and innovation of global ports, shipping, logistics and offshore sectors. The "Startup Nation," as Israel is often called, has seen its maritime tech ecosystem grow "significantly" in recent years and expects that growth to "accelerate dramatically," <a href="https://itrade.gov.il/belgium-english/how-israel-is-becoming-a-port-of-call-for-maritime-innovation/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">iTrade</a> reported.</p><p>Driving this wave of momentum has been rising Israeli venture capital hub <a href="https://www.thedockinnovation.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">theDOCK</a>. Founded by Israeli Navy veterans in 2017, theDOCK works with early-stage companies in the maritime space to bring their solutions to market. The hub's pioneering efforts ignited Israel's maritime technology sector, and now, with their new fund, theDOCK is motivating these high-tech solutions to also address ESG criteria.</p><p>"While ESG has always been on theDOCK's agenda, this theme has become even more of a priority," Nir Gartzman, theDOCK's managing partner, told EcoWatch. "80 percent of the startups in our portfolio (for theDOCK's Navigator II fund) will have a primary or secondary contribution to environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria."</p><p>In a company presentation, theDOCK called contribution to the ESG agenda a "hot discussion topic" for traditional players in the space and their boards, many of whom are looking to adopt new technologies with a positive impact on the planet. The focus is on reducing carbon emissions and protecting the environment, the presentation outlines. As such, theDOCK also explicitly screens candidate investments by ESG criteria as well.</p><p>Within the maritime space, environmental innovations could include measures like increased fuel and energy efficiency, better monitoring of potential pollution sources, improved waste and air emissions management and processing of marine debris/trash into reusable materials, theDOCK's presentation noted.</p>
theDOCK team includes (left to right) Michal Hendel-Sufa, Head of Alliances, Noa Schuman, CMO, Nir Gartzman, Co-Founder & Managing Partner, and Hannan Carmeli, Co-Founder & Managing Partner. Dudu Koren<p>theDOCK's own portfolio includes companies like Orca AI, which uses an intelligent collision avoidance system to reduce the probability of oil or fuel spills, AiDock, which eliminates the use of paper by automating the customs clearance process, and DockTech, which uses depth "crowdsourcing" data to map riverbeds in real-time and optimize cargo loading, thereby reducing trips and fuel usage while also avoiding groundings.</p><p>"Oceans are a big opportunity primarily because they are just that – big!" theDOCK's Chief Marketing Officer Noa Schuman summarized. "As such, the magnitude of their criticality to the global ecosystem, the magnitude of pollution risk and the steps needed to overcome those challenges – are all huge."</p><p>There is hope that this wave of interest and investment in environmentally-positive maritime technologies will accelerate the blue economy and ESG investing even further, in Israel and beyond.</p>
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