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United States v. Brigham Oil & Gas, L.P.

ELR Citation: 42 ELR 20018
Nos. 4:11-po-005 et al., (D.N.D., 01/17/2012) (Hovland, J.)

A district court held that oil and gas companies should not be criminally charged under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) for the death of migratory birds found in North Dakota oil fields. The MBTA, as broadly interpreted by the U.S. government, offers unlimited potential for criminal prosecution. Nevertheless, the criminalization of lawful, commercial activity that may indirectly injure or kill migratory birds is not warranted under the MBTA. It is highly unlikely that Congress ever intended to impose criminal liability on acts or omissions of persons involved in lawful commercial activity. In this case, the remedy for the bird deaths is best left in the hands of the North Dakota Industrial Commission, which can easily address the perceived problem in its administrative rules and regulations.