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Judge says bird law doesn't apply to oil pits

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) -- A federal judge ruled Tuesday that oil companies can't be prosecuted if a duck dies in an oil waste disposal pit.

U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland threw out misdemeanor charges against Continental Resources Co., Brigham Oil and Gas and Newfield Production Co.

The companies were charged with violating a federal law that's intended to protect migratory birds.

Prosecutors argued the law was broken because a few ducks landed in open pits that are used for waste disposal during oil drilling, and died.

Hovland says the law doesn't apply when bird deaths are unintentional. He says the charges would "criminalize lawful commercial activity" in North Dakota's oil fields.

Hovland says the logic used to charge the oil companies could also be used against drivers, farmers, airplane pilots and wind turbine operators.