Posts in Construction Projects.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Establishes Expedited Eagle Permits

On February 12, 2024, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) published a final rule creating new permitting pathways and revising existing regulations for the take of bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) and golden eagles (Aquila chrysaetos). Bald and golden eagles are protected under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (BGEPA), which prohibits take of the species except pursuant to federal regulations. The updated rule is the result of a settlement agreement between the Service and the Energy Wildlife and Action Coalition, which prompted the Service to revisit its ...

BOEM and NOAA Fisheries Announce Final North Atlantic Right Whale and Offshore Wind Strategy

On January 25, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries released a final North Atlantic Right Whale and Offshore Wind Strategy (the “Strategy”). The Strategy expresses the agencies’ joint goal of protecting and promoting the recovery of the North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis) while responsibly developing offshore wind energy.

The North Atlantic right whale (NARW) population has declined significantly over the past decade. Population estimates through December 2022 indicate ...

Resource Optimization and Endangered Species Management

On December 21, 2023, I published a post on the Center for California Water Resources Policy and Management’s DeltaCurrents blog discussing integration of resource optimization into endangered species policy to improve conservation outcomes. Resource optimization is the allocation of finite resources in the most efficient manner possible. In the context of wildlife management, it is a structured process to select a management action from among available alternatives intended to result in the most efficient allocation of resources to achieve a specified objective. … 

Advocacy Groups Threaten Endangered Species Act Lawsuit Against Virginia Offshore Wind Project

On November 13, two advocacy organizations submitted a notice of intent to sue the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM). The notice letter alleges that the September 18, 2023 Biological Opinion (BiOp) issued by NMFS for the Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind (CVOW) project violates the Endangered Species Act (ESA) because it fails to adequately analyze and mitigate the project's impacts on the endangered North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis). … 

Federal Court Dismisses Fishing Industry Challenge to Massachusetts Offshore Wind Project

On Thursday, October 12, 2023, Judge Indira Talwani of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts granted summary judgment in favor of the United States Department of the Interior and Vineyard Wind, and denied summary judgment to the plaintiffs in two cases challenging federal authorizations for the Vineyard Wind project: Seafreeze Shoreside, Inc. v. U.S. Department of Interior (Seafreeze) and Responsible Offshore Development Alliance v. U.S. Department of Interior (RODA). In both cases, the plaintiffs sought to overturn the federal approvals for the ...

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Lists Cactus Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl as Threatened with a 4(d) Rule

On July 20, 2023, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) issued a final rule listing the cactus ferruginous pygmy-owl (Glaucidium brasilianum cactorum) (“Owl”) as a threatened subspecies with a 4(d) rule under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The 4(d) rule prohibits the same activities prohibited for endangered species, but allows exemptions for certain education and outreach activities permitted under a Migratory Bird Treaty Act permit, surveying and monitoring in Arizona under a state scientific activity permit, and habitat restoration and enhancement ...

California Amends Fully Protected Species Statutes: Streamlining or More Red Tape?

On July 10, 2023, Governor Newsom signed Senate Bill 147 (SB147) into law, amending California’s “fully protected species” statutes. These laws were enacted in 1970 and currently protect 37 species native to California, ranging from the North Pacific right whale (Eubalaena japonica) to the salt marsh harvest mouse (Reithrodontomys raviventris). The amendments enacted by the legislature and signed into law by the Governor create a temporary, 10-year permitting regime that allows proponents of a limited, defined set of projects to pursue authorization from the ...

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to Release Plans for Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) anticipates releasing the Draft Designation Documents for the proposed Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary.

A draft proposed rule and management plan for the sanctuary are expected to be released early this summer, concurrently with the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the proposed designation required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The draft management plan will describe the non-regulatory programmatic strategies and actions the new sanctuary will undertake for an ...

Massachusetts Court Refuses to Halt Construction of Offshore Wind Project

On May 25, 2023, the federal District Court for the District of Massachusetts denied a motion by plaintiffs seeking to halt construction of the Vineyard Wind project offshore of Massachusetts, in the case of Seafreeze Shoreside, Inc. v. U.S. Department of Interior, 22-cv-11091 (Talwani, J.). The summary judgment motions in the case are still pending, and the plaintiffs have appealed the decision denying their request for a preliminary injunction or stay under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) to the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.

The plaintiffs in ...

Massachusetts Court Rejects Endangered Species Act Challenge to Offshore Wind Project

On May 17, 2023, the federal District Court for the District of Massachusetts granted summary judgment in favor of the United States Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and Vineyard Wind and denied summary judgment to the plaintiffs in the case of Nantucket Residents Against Turbines v. U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, 21-cv-11390 (Talwani, J.). This is the first federal court decision upholding, on the merits, the federal government’s approval of a commercial-scale offshore wind project. There are three other cases pending that also seek to block the construction ...

FERC Approves Surrender License for Lower Klamath Project

On November 17, 2022, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”) voted unanimously to issue an Order Modifying and Approving Surrender License and Removal of Project Facilities (“Order”) for the Lower Klamath Project (“Project”). The Order allows the dams’ private operator to surrender its operating license and was one of the final hurdles for the largest dam removal project in United States history. The $450 million project involves the removal of four dams along the Klamath River near the border of Northern California and Southern Oregon.

A noteworthy ...

Bureau of Reclamation and Local Water Agency Have Discretion to Release Water from Dam to Avoid Take of Endangered Steelhead Trout

Reversing the district court, a divided panel of the Ninth Circuit held that that the Bureau of Reclamation and a local water agency have discretion to release water from Twitchell Dam on the Santa Maria River on the Central Coast of California to comply with the federal Endangered Species Act. San Luis Obispo Coastkeeper v. Santa Maria Valley Water Conservation Dist. (Ninth Cir. No. 21-55479, Sept. 23, 2022). The court concluded that a 1958 federal law (P.L. 774) authorizing the operation of the dam for purposes other than irrigation, flood control, and water conservation provided ...

Biden Administration Prepares Compensatory Mitigation Policy

On March 22, 2022, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) received from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) an Endangered Species Act (ESA)-specific compensatory mitigation policy (Policy). While the text of the Policy is not publicly available at this time, many have speculated that an updated Policy may mirror that which was in place under the Obama Administration.

On December 27, 2016, the Service published its final ESA Compensatory Mitigation Policy (2016 Policy) establishing the agency’s goal that compensatory mitigation provided under ESA ...

On February 9, 2022, the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado found that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) violated the Endangered Species Act (ESA) when it failed to reinitiate consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) prior to approving oil and gas leases. BLM had issued the leases for parcels of land in Southwest Colorado located within Gunnison sage-grouse (Centrocercus minimus) habitat and other proposed and existing areas of environmental concern.

The ESA requires federal agencies to review federal actions “at the earliest possible time ...

Department of the Interior Releases Hefty Agenda

On December 10, 2021, the Biden Administration released the Fall 2021 Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions (Unified Agenda), which is a semi-annual compilation of information concerning regulations and policy under development by federal agencies. Department of the Interior (DOI) entries on the Unified Agenda reveal a lengthy set of planned regulatory actions, some of which may have an impact on development and deployment of energy, construction and operation of transportation and other infrastructure, and various other economic activities. … 

Assessment of Service’s Move to Rescind Definition of Habitat

This week, I published a post on the Center for California Water Resources Policy and Management’s DeltaCurrents blog discussing the Biden administration’s proposal to rescind the definition of habitat.  The definition was promulgated by the Trump administration in response to the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in 2018 in Weyerhauser Co. v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a case involving a challenge to the rule designating critical habitat for the dusky gopher frog in the American southeast. … 

One Step Back for NEPA Regulations

On October 7, 2021, the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) will publish the first of two proposed rulemakings to revise National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations that had previously been updated in 2020 under the Trump Administration. As stated by CEQ in the proposal, the agency intends to “generally restore” NEPA regulations that were in place prior to the 2020 updates.

In this first phase of NEPA regulatory revisions, CEQ addresses the agency’s definition of “purpose and need,” the definition of “effects” of the action, and agency procedures for ...

Ninth Circuit Tosses NWP 12 Appeal

On August 11, 2021, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit granted partial vacatur of an appeal brought by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) challenging a district court decision to vacate and enjoin use of the 2017 version of nationwide permit 12 (NWP 12).

The underlying lawsuit was brought by Northern Plains Resource Council against the Corps over the Corps’ authorization of impacts to waters of the United States under NWP 12 in connection with the Keystone XL pipeline. In April 2020, the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana vacated NWP 12 throughout the ...

WEBINAR: Charting a Course for Offshore Wind Energy in California

Please join us on May 6, 2021 from 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. PT as Nossaman’s Coastal Development and Environment & Land Use Groups present “Charting a Course for Offshore Wind Energy in California” to discuss current proposals and pending regulations concerning offshore wind development along the California coast.

We will be participating on a top tier panel of coastal specialists which will also include: Kate Huckelbridge, Deputy Director of Energy, Ocean Resources & Federal Consistency, CA Coastal Commission; Jennifer Lucchesi, Executive Officer, State Lands ...

WEBINAR: The New NEPA Regulations: A Practical Guide to What You Need to Know

In September 2020, the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) enacted new regulations that set forth procedures federal agencies are to utilize when implementing the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Numerous commentaries published on the subject have either adopted a Chicken Little approach (i.e., sky is falling) to describing the changes, or an overly optimistic assessment of their likely implications for proponents of federal actions subjected to environmental review.

In order to understand these changes, please join our Environment and Land Use Group on ...

Linear infrastructure projects, including oil and gas pipelines, electric transmission lines and transportation, have faced a number of regulatory challenges over the past year, starting with last summer’s Endangered Species Act (ESA) amendments. Some of these challenges stem from changes in regulatory schemes or adverse court holdings, while others stem from uncertainty of pending ESA listing decisions and other actions. 

In our recent webinar concerning Adapting Linear Infrastructure Projects to Changing Regulatory Frameworks, we discussed the path for energy providers to move forward and reduce the risk that projects may be delayed or scrapped down the road. One of the topics we covered was the 2019 regulatory amendments to the Endangered Species Act (ESA). In the following video clip from the webinar, we review some of the revised definitions and updated language in the new version of the regulations.

If you would like to view the full webinar ...

WEBINAR: Key CEQA Compliance Considerations for Vehicle Miles Traveled Analyses

Please join us on August 4th from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. PT for “Key CEQA Compliance Considerations for Vehicle Miles Traveled Analyses.” This complimentary webinar will examine the California Natural Resources Agency’s new guidelines for traffic and transportation impacts analyses under CEQA through legal, planning and technical perspectives. We will be joined by well-known transit practitioners Keith Greer, Senior Environmental Planner at the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), and Ronald Milam, Principal at the transportation planning firm Fehr & ...

Klamath Dam Removal Now in Question

Over the past decade, proponents of an effort to remove four dams on the lower Klamath River have hit a series of roadblocks.  The most recent came on July 16, 2020, when the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) voted 3-0 to partially transfer the license for the four dams to the Klamath River Renewal Corporation (KRRC) but also required PacifiCorp, the current owner and operator of the dams, to remain a co-licensee.  FERC determined that retaining PacifiCorp as co-licensee is in the public interest because of significant uncertainty regarding the proposed dam ...

WEBINAR: Adapting Your Linear Infrastructure Projects to Changing Regulatory Frameworks

Please join us for a complimentary webinar on July 30, 2020 from 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. PT, where we will discuss the path for energy providers to move forward and reduce the risk that projects may be delayed or scrapped down the road. We will examine...

Transmission Line Permit Invalidated, USFWS Ordered to Redo Endangered Species Act Analyses

On June 17, 2020, a federal court in Colorado vacated an incidental take permit (ITP) issued to the Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD) authorizing take of the endangered American burying beetle (ABB) that could occur in connection with NPPD’s construction and operation of the 225-mile R-Project transmission line (R Project). The court vacated the ITP on the grounds that its issuance by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) violated the Endangered Species Act (ESA), National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act ...

Trump Executive Order: Environmental Streamlining or Political Quagmire?

On June 4, 2020, President Trump signed an executive order to provide federal agencies the foundation to speed up environmental permitting in the wake of COVID-19. While the move was lauded by many, others view the executive order as an impermissible use of executive power to circumvent environmental protections. The Center for Biological Diversity has already announced its plans to pursue litigation challenging the EO, alleging violations of the Endangered Species Act. 

Executive Order 13927, “Accelerating the Nation’s Economic Recovery from the COVID-19 Emergency ...

WEBINAR: A Path to Transit and Transportation Project Success in the Wake of the Pandemic

For those of you involved in the transportation sector, we invite you to join us on Wednesday, June 3rd for a discussion on planning, procurement and financing strategies that can be implemented now to support timely project delivery in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.  We are planning a very interactive webinar where ample time will be set aside to answer questions received from attendees both prior to and during the event.

Topics that will be covered include:

  • How to prepare now to efficiently and effectively move projects forward
  • Procurement and contracting strategies that enable ...
COVID-19 And Endangered Species Act Compliance

Many projects require federal incidental take authority due to impacts on species listed under the federal Endangered Species Act (“ESA”). Depending upon the species, this federal take authority is obtained either from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (“USFWS”) or National Marine Fisheries Service (“NMFS”). These agencies provide take authority either through a Section 7 (federal consultation) incidental take statement or Section 10 (Habitat Conservation Plan) incidental take permit. These authorizations almost always require the permittee to undertake ...

Water Supply & Delivery Projects Under the ESA

Recently, Lyn Clancy, Managing Associate General Counsel and Senior Policy Advisor for the Lower Colorado River Authority, and I presented on the topic of Endangered Species and Water Supply at the State Bar of Texas’ Changing Face of Water Law Conference in San Antonio. Issues of water supply and delivery continue to be a hot topic nationwide, including in Texas, and supply and delivery projects often intersect with the need to address species of plants and wildlife listed under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA).

The presentation included several primary takeaways ...

Nossaman’s Endangered Species Law & Policy blog focuses on news, events, and policies affecting endangered species issues in California and throughout the United States. Topics include listing and critical habitat decisions, conservation and recovery planning, inter-agency consultation, and related developments in law, policy, and science. We also inform readers about regulatory and legislative developments, as well as key court decisions.

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