After a heated markup hearing on Wednesday, the House Natural Resources Committee voted to send four bills that would amend the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives. All four bills were sponsored by Republican representatives, and the Committee voted almost exclusively upon partisan lines, with Republicans voting for and Democrats voting against sending the bills to the full House. One Democrat, Representative Jim Costa (D-Calif.), voted in support of H.R. 4315, voicing his opinion that “[i]t’s past time for targeted reforms to the Endangered Species Act.” To the contrary, Representative Rush Holt (D-N.J.) argued that there is no need to reform the ESA because the ESA “has been one of the most, if not the most, successful environmental bills over the last few decades.” Environmental groups immediately criticized the bills, arguing they would put endangered species at greater risk of becoming extinct and would make it harder to enforce the ESA through citizens’ suits.
As we previously reported, the bills would:
– Require online publication of the “best scientific and commercial data available” that is the basis for ESA decision-making (H.R. 4315, “21st Century Endangered Species Transparency Act”);
– Require federal agencies to disclose certain expenditures, including the amount of funds expended in ESA-related lawsuits, the number of employees dedicated to ESA litigation, and the amount of attorneys’ fees paid to successful ESA litigants (H.R. 4316, “Endangered Species Recovery Transparency Act”);
– Require use of information provided by state, tribal, and county governments in decision-making under the ESA (H.R. 4317, “State, Tribal, and Local Species Transparency and Recovery Act);
– Impose a cap of $125 per hour on the government’s reimbursement of attorneys’ fees under the ESA (H.R. 4318, “Endangered Species Litigation Reasonableness Act”).
The bills will now be sent to the House floor, though there is no timetable scheduled for when a vote will occur.