The Biden administration is preparing to replace a rule under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act that would have exempted accidental deaths or injuries to migratory birds due to utilities’ routine operations.
“Electric co-ops, along with the broader utility sector, have spent decades developing and implementing ways to minimize impacts to birds while enhancing system reliability,” said Janelle Lemen, NRECA regulatory director.
“NRECA will actively engage and encourage clear and consistent implementation of the MBTA that recognizes our continued progress in reducing impacts to birds and the need for co-ops to continue providing affordable and reliable power to their local communities.”
Issued Jan. 7, the rule was originally set to take effect Feb. 8 when it was
placed on a monthlong hold.
On March 8, the Department of the Interior said it was
revoking the 2017 legal opinion that had provided the basis for the rule and that it would “reconsider its interpretation of the MBTA to develop common sense standards that can protect migratory birds and provide certainty to industry.”
The department has not clarified whether it would soon issue a new legal interpretation on incidental take or unintentional harm under the MBTA or seek a new rulemaking—a process that could take more than a year.
Lemen said liability for operating transmission and distribution lines may be increased as the DOI reconsiders the rule.
NRECA told the agency that the rule had offered greater certainty for co-ops as they maintain and modernize the grid and reduce impacts on migratory birds.
“We’ll work to ensure the agency recognizes the breadth of conservation efforts co-ops are already doing and the need for legal certainty,” she said.