Business is booming for the federal government’s environmental enforcers. In a self-congratulatory report released last week, the Environmental and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice was “happy to report” securing $8.3 billion in fines, penalties, and damages from environmental violators last year.
Here’s how it works: special agents with various government agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), investigate potential violations of federal environmental laws. These agencies work with DOJ to secure charges, then DOJ prosecutes the alleged violators. Agencies like EPA are both a partner and a client of the Justice Department.
But who, exactly, are these violators? In the case of Obama’s green police, violators tend to be those who don’t comport with the president’s green energy agenda. Meanwhile, renewable energy developers can usually count on getting off scot free.
In its annual report, the DOJ celebrates how its army of lawyers “defended challenges to permits and rights-of-way in more than 25 cases involving solar and wind projects.” These “victories,” as DOJ explains, “enabled substantial development of renewable energy resources across the country.” What DOJ failed to mention in its report is that Big Wind slaughters hundreds of thousands of birds each year in violation of federal law, including the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and Bald and Gold Eagle Protection Act. Yet the feds have prosecuted only a single wind energy company for killing protected bird species, and none before November 2013.
The Obama administration also protects solar companies who run afoul of federal bird laws. The Ivanpah solar facility in California is among the largest solar installations in the world. In its report, DOJ takes credit for fending off litigation against the facility, exalting, “Our successes in fiscal year 2013 included favorable rulings on summary judgment in cases involving the Ivanpah Solar Project.”
While Obama’s DOJ was defending Ivanpah in court, the solar plant was busy scorching birds. As The Wall Street Journal reported, the owners of the project reported finding dozens of dead birds before the plant even began operations in December. While regulators expected some bird deaths after the plant went on-line, they were surprised to find so many dead birds during construction and testing.
As the feds largely ignores Big Green violators, they strictly enforce federal bird protection laws when it comes to oil and gas companies. In 2011, for instance, DOJ charged Continental Resources and six other oil companies in North Dakota for killing 28 migratory birds. Continental was charged after a single common birddied in one of its oil pits.
Indeed, Obama’s green energy cops seem more interested in rewarding allies and punishing adversaries than providing equal justice under the law.