A math problem from the federal government: When is 28 greater than 400,000? The answer: When the 28 represents the number of migratory birds killed by the activities of oil companies, and the 400,000 represents the number killed flying into wind turbines. (h/t The Blaze)
Last month, seven North Dakota oil companies were charged in federal court with the deaths of 28 migratory birds that had landed in oil waste pits in the western part of the state. The pits are a byproduct of oil and gas drilling operations. The maximum penalty for each charge under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act is six months in prison and a $15,000 fine.
But a law’s a law, right? Well, sometimes. It appears that a different standard (call it “No harm, no fowl”?) obtains when it comes to “good” forms of energy. Comments George Fenwick, president of the American Bird Conservancy (ABC):
It is perplexing that similar prosecutions have yet to be brought against the operators of wind farms. Every year wind turbines kill hundreds of thousands of birds, including eagles, hawks, and songbirds, but the operators are being allowed to get away with it. It looks like a double standard.
The ABC cites a 2009 estimate by the Fish and Wildlife Service that places the number of bird deaths from wind turbine collisions at 440,000. That number is expected to rise dramatically by 2030, by which point wind energy will be 12 times as prevalent as it is now.
Kevin Cramer, North Dakota’s public service commissioner, shares Fenwick’s presumption that a double standard is at work. Appearing on a Bismarck, North Dakota, radio show, Cramer called the government action “chilling” in a free society, adding:
[W]hen you selectively prosecute this way, it’s the worst injustice and the grossest form of discrimination in a free society that you can ever have.
None of which has deterred U.S. Attorney Timothy Purdon from pressing forward, despite criticism that the case is a targeted effort to advance the Obama administration’s war on fossil fuels. Even the presiding judge has observed that violations of the Migratory Bird Act, which dates to 1918, are normally treated as Class B or C misdemeanors.
For their part, the oil companies under indictment have pleaded not guilty, though, as the Wall Street Journal reports:
[T]hey are not unamazed. They say they’re not responsible for the bird deaths and that, even if they were, the deaths were ‘incidental’ to lawful commercial activity in full compliance with all environmental laws.