FERC Agrees to Try Not to Kill Too Many More Birds

On Wednesday, March 30th, FERC officially entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) in the name of “strengthening” and “promoting” migratory bird conservation.

Image courtesy of FWS. Some rights reserved.

The MOU was mandated by Executive Order 13186, which was signed by then-President Clinton more than ten years ago. I couldn’t help but notice in the text of the Order the following requirement:

Sec. 3. Federal Agency Responsibilities. (a) Each Federal agency taking actions that have, or are likely to have, a measurable negative effect on migratory bird populations is directed to develop and implement, within 2 years, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) that shall promote the conservation of migratory bird populations.

But, hey, what’s eight years? A “Migratory Bird Mortality” fact sheet published by FWS in 2002 estimated that migratory bird collisions with high tension transmission and distribution power lines “very conservatively kill tens of thousands of birds annually,” and that actual mortality “could be as high as 174 million deaths annually.” Even green technologies are not off the hook: a 2009 article in the Wall Street Journal cites estimates of 75,000 to 275,000 wind-turbine-related bird deaths per year. I’ll let you do the math.

However, FERC might deserve a little slack. As they point out in the MOU, “It is the Commission’s position that as an independent regulatory agency, as defined in 5 U.S.c. § 104, it is not bound by Executive Order 13186. However, the Commission recognizes the benefits of cooperation with the FWS, other Federal agencies, State agencies, and other partners to identify and implement actions that benefit migratory birds. The Commission therefore will implement the provisions ofthis MOU, consistent with its mission, under the procedures established by the Commission’s regulations.”

Under the MOU, FERC agrees to, most generally: “Engage FWS for early coordination relative to potential impacts of proposed actions, to proactively address migratory bird conservation, and to initiate appropriate actions to avoid and minimize the take of migratory birds.” The MOU became effective upon signing.

To read about the rest of FERC’s obligations regarding Migratory Birds, don’t forget to check out the full text of the MOU.

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