In early June the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Fiscal Year 2016 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill—with a sneak attack on birds attached. The bill included an amendment prohibiting the use of Department of Justice funds to prosecute or hold liable any person or corporation for a violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. If it becomes law, anyone could kill birds with impunity, with no risk of jail time or even fines. It would decimate one of the most successful pieces of conservation legislation in history.
Audubon has obtained documents linking Duke Energy, the largest electric utility in the country, to the amendment, which was sponsored by Representative Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.). Duke’s renewable energy division had been the first green power company to be prosecuted under the MBTA, pleading guilty in 2013 to the deaths of more than 150 protected birds, including 14 Golden Eagles, at two wind farms in Wyoming, and forking over $1 million in fines.
In the wake of that guilty plea, Duke, which has contributed $23,000 to Duncan’s political campaigns, apparently began deploying its considerable resources and political muscle to undo the very law it had violated, paying at least $60,000 in 2014 to The Majority Group, LLC, a lobbying firm with offices on D Street in Washington, D.C. On the “lobbying report” it was required to file, Majority Group recorded one purpose of its efforts as “Amending the Migratory Birds Treaty Act and Bald and Gold Eagle Protection Act to address accidental avian deaths.” A staff member in Duncan’s office confirmed that the Congressman has discussed amending the MBTA with Duke Energy but did not confirm or deny that Majority Group lobbied Duncan on the energy company’s behalf. Read article