As the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposes a new interpretation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, NRECA is weighing in to ensure that the policy recognizes widespread efforts already used to protect birds, does not penalize accidental bird deaths and provides legal certainty for electric cooperatives.
“Electric co-ops have long taken concrete actions to protect migratory birds and remain incentivized to continue voluntary practices," said Janelle Lemen, NRECA regulatory director.
“We are recommending that the FWS give proper consideration to those efforts as it prepares a new regulation to implement the Migratory Bird Treaty Act."
NRECA on July 20 submitted recommendations to the FWS on its proposal to clarify the scope of the MBTA. The agency is expected to issue a final rule in October.
NRECA supports the agency's plan to prohibit purposeful killing of migratory birds but to exclude incidental take or accidental deaths from the law. Well-designed and maintained power lines greatly reduce unintentional injuries and deaths of migratory birds.
“NRECA continues to advocate that FWS promptly complete its rule to assure electric systems are not criminally liable for accidently taking migratory birds," said Lemen.
NRECA believes this clarification would help remedy the inconsistent patchwork of how the MBTA has been applied across the country.
Inconsistent implementation of the MBTA has hampered co-ops in operating, maintaining and upgrading the electric system for reliability and safety. This lack of legal certainty also presents challenges when building new infrastructure or diversifying their energy portfolios, NRECA told the agency.
“As co-ops continue responding to consumer needs and enabling a better future for their communities, regulatory certainty is essential to providing affordable services," Lemen said.
NRECA has developed a webinar series and an Avian Protection Toolkit as resources for co-ops to operate with improved reliability while minimizing interactions with migratory birds.