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Federal court: Intent matters in migratory-bird deaths

The Associated Press

FILE – In this Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2012, file photo, migratory birds fly over Mad Island, Texas. Energy companies blamed for the deaths of migratory birds may be harder to prosecute under a century-old law that a federal court in September 2015 ruled applies only to intentional killings. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan, File)

Associated Press

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By EMILY SCHMALL, Associated Press

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — It could be harder to successfully prosecute companies that are accused of causing migratory bird deaths after a recent federal appeals court decision that a century-old wildlife protection law only applies if the killing is intentional.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling in September runs contrary to two other federal courts’ interpretations of the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

That means companies in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi that operate wind farms, power transmission lines and other energy production facilities could save millions in research at the risk of more bird deaths.

The nation’s appellate courts have starkly different interpretations of the law, resulting in an uneven enforcement across the country, with companies in some energy-rich states facing a narrower liability toward migratory birds than operations in other regions.

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