There are currently two sets of laws in America: laws that apply to everyone and laws that apply to everyone except for friends of the Obama administration.
In January I wrote about how the executive branch had argued that the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 should be broadly interpreted in order to impose criminal liability for actions that indirectly result in a protected bird’s death. The administration used that reasoning to file criminal charges against three energy companies.
The U.S. District Court of North Dakota rejected this sweeping interpretation of the MBTA and dismissed the charges, noting that the words “kill” and “take” in statute should be interpreted narrowly to mean actions taken with the intent to kill or take a bird, not actions that merely happen to kill or take a bird. The ruling seemed fair-minded but the Department of Justice appealed to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.
While one section of the Obama Administration is arguing that they should be able to prosecute energy companies (oil and gas) for killing birds another section of the Obama Administration is arguing that energy companies (wind) should be exempt from prosecution for killing birds.
According to the Associated Press:
Under both the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, the death of a single bird without a permit is illegal.
But under the Obama administration’s new guidelines, wind-energy companies — and only wind-energy companies — are held to a different standard. Their facilities don’t face additional scrutiny until they have a “significant adverse impact” on wildlife or habitat. But under both bird protection laws, any impact has to be addressed.
The rare exception for one industry substantially weakened the government’s ability to enforce the law and ignited controversy inside the Interior Department.
“U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service does not do this for the electric utility industry or other industries,” Kevin Kritz, a government wildlife biologist in the Rocky Mountain region wrote in government records in September 2011. “Other industries will want to be judged on a similar standard.”
Well of course other industries will want to be judged by a similar standard. That is a standard requirement of fairness and the rule of law. But the Obama administration isn’t as concerned with the rule of law as they are in letting their friends get their way:
Experts working for the agency in California and Nevada wrote in government records in June 2011 that the new federal guidelines should be considered as though they were put together by corporations, since they “accommodate the renewable energy industry’s proposals, without due accountability.”
The Obama administration, however, repeatedly overruled its experts at the Fish and Wildlife Service. In the end, the wind-energy industry, which was part of the committee that drafted and edited the guidelines, got almost everything it wanted.
“Clearly, there was a bias to wind energy in their favor because they are a renewable source of energy, and justifiably so,” said Rob Manes, who runs the Kansas office for The Nature Conservancy and who served on the committee. “We need renewable energy in this country.”
The government also declared that senior officials in Washington, many of whom are political appointees, must approve any wind-farm prosecution. Normally, law-enforcement agents in the field have the authority to file charges with federal attorneys.
While all big cases are typically cleared through headquarters, such a blanket policy has never been applied to an entire industry, former officials said.
The existence of cronyism isn’t surprising; it’s a natural outgrowth of expansive government. But what is shocking is that the Obama administration has unashamedly embraced cronyism and sneers at the naivety of those who think their friends shouldn’t get special treatment. This new age of crony acceptance may end up being Obama’s most enduring legacy—and dead eagles may be just the beginning of the price America will have to pay.