Among the many energy falsehoods that Donald Trump put forward during his presidency — the idea of “clean” coal, the reported belief that human bodies are a “battery” with finite stores of power — were his claims that wind turbines kill “all the birds.” They don’t, but a 2017 legal opinion from a former Koch adviser working as a top lawyer in the Department of the Interior did effectively give carte blanche to any utility that killed migratory birds, as long as the deaths weren’t the explicit intention. According to the opinion on the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, written by Daniel Jorjani, oil and gas companies were not in any way responsible for millions of annual bird deaths from poisoning, chemical spill, power lines, and to a more limited extent, yes, wind turbines.
But on Monday, the Biden administration rescinded the guideline, which was made into an official rule in 2020 after years of the Trump administration declining to investigate migratory-bird deaths. In a statement provided on Monday, an Interior Department spokesperson said the Trump-era rule “allowed industry to kill birds with impunity.”
Last month, the Biden administration delayed the implementation of the rule, which broke with decades of legal precedents by stating that violations of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act — which protects over 1,000 species — only applied when people or companies intentionally hunted, captured, or killed bird species without proper permits. The Interior spokesperson added that a new legal opinion will be issued “in the coming days” that will “develop common-sense standards that can protect migratory birds and provide certainty to industry.”
As for the culprit Trump erroneously considered as the apex bird predator, the wind industry got a major boost on Monday when the Department of the Interior announced it had completed the environmental review of an 800-megawatt farm off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard. The nation’s largest project, known as Vineyard Wind, expects to provide enough clean energy to power 400,000 homes in New England as soon as 2023.