The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) has finalized revisions to portions of the agency’s National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) implementing regulations (Phase I Regulations), which had been revised in 2020 under the Trump Administration (2020 Regulations). CEQ received more than 90,000 public comments in response to its proposal to revise the 2020 Regulations. In its final Phase I Regulations, CEQ declined to make substantial changes to the version proposed.
CEQ has indicated that the Phase I Regulations represent a “narrow” set of changes to address the Biden ...
Last Friday, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California issued an order on competing motions in the coordinated cases challenging the 2019 biological opinions (BiOps) that govern operation of California’s State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project (Projects). The hefty order, which spanned over a hundred and twenty pages, attempted to distill the thousands of pages of briefing the parties submitted on the matter. Admittedly, stakes were high: these two Projects supply water to more than 25 million Californians and to farmers across the ...
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. …
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. …
In the last few weeks, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) has published several major regulatory actions affecting federal avian protections. The Service has repealed a Trump-era rule that excluded incidental take from liability under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA), issued guidance for enforcement of the MBTA against incidental take, and invited comment on a potential MBTA permitting program. Separately, the Service has invited comment on ways to improve its existing permitting program for the incidental take of eagles (Eagle Permit Program). …
On June 29, 2021, fourteen members of Congress delivered a letter to Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland urging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) to use its authority to list the monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) on an emergency basis under section 4 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The letter, which garnered only Democratic support, notes that the population of western monarchs has sunk to under 2,000 individuals and states that immediate action is necessary to prevent extinction of the species.
Section 4 of the ESA authorizes the Service to immediately place a ...
On June 29, 2021, the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) will publish an interim final rule (IFR) extending the deadline by which federal agencies are required to adopt updated National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations by two years. Under current CEQ regulations, promulgated under the previous administration, federal agencies have until September 14, 2021 to adopt updated agency-specific NEPA rules. Upon publication of the interim final rule in the federal register, that deadline will instead fall on September 14, 2023. There will be no public comment period ...
Linear infrastructure projects, including oil and gas pipelines, electric transmission lines and transportation, have faced a number of regulatory challenges over the last year. Some of these challenges stem from changes in regulatory schemes, adverse court holdings or drastically shifting policy initiatives. Others result from the uncertainty inherent in pending listing decisions under the Endangered Species Act, updates to the Nationwide Permitting Program under the Clean Water Act, the ever-changing definition of Waters of the United States and the Biden ...
On May 14, 2021, the Department of Justice filed a brief with the Supreme Court arguing that the Court should not hear the case of Kansas Natural Resource Coalition v. Department of Interior (“KNRC”). KNRC is a challenge to a rule interpreting the Endangered Species Act (“ESA”) that was jointly issued by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (“USFWS”) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (“NMFS”) (collectively, the “Services”) in 2003: The “Policy for Evaluation of Conservation Efforts When Making Listing Decisions,”(68 Fed. Reg. 15,100 ...
On May 5, 2021, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (“USFWS”) published its updated collision risk model (“CRM”) for bald and golden eagles at wind energy facilities. The CRM is a complex Bayesian model the USFWS has endorsed to predict eagle fatalities at wind energy facilities seeking eagle incidental take authorization under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (“BGEPA”). The USFWS previously published the proposed updates to CRM for public comment on two occasions, seeking input on three alternatives: (1) Use updated species-specific model inputs and use the ...
On May 7, 2021, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), as many anticipated, published a proposed rule to revoke a Trump Administration rule impacting the scope of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA). The Trump Administration rule was finalized on January 7, 2021 and became effective March 8, 2021. It clarified that the MBTA’s prohibition against the take of migratory birds did not extend to death or injury of migratory birds that results from, but is not the purpose of, an action (also known as incidental take). Prior to the Trump Administration Rule, USFWS had, for decades ...
The first 100 days of a new administration can define what lies ahead for the next four years. Join our panel of Nossaman Environment & Land Use attorneys from across the U.S. on April 15, 2021 from 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. PT as we review and evaluate the Biden administration’s first 100 days of policy moves involving environmental and natural resources management.
We will discuss efforts to fill leadership roles at CEQ, EPA, Interior, DOT and other federal agencies. Updates and analysis will be provided regarding key areas of policy, legislation and regulation, including:
- Climate ...
Recently, the Department of the Interior released a pre-publication version of a Federal Register notice delaying the effective date of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) take definitional rule to March 8, 2021, and opening a 20-day public comment period, which will close March 1, 2021. The MBTA was enacted in 1918 to implement an international convention for the protection of migratory birds in response to declines in populations of a number of species of birds resulting from widespread hunting and poaching. The take definitional rule states in full:
“The prohibitions of the ...
On January 20, 2021, President Biden announced his administration will review regulatory actions taken between January 20, 2017 and January 20, 2021 in accordance with an Executive Order titled “Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis” (EO). Among the agency actions to be reviewed under the EO are a number of regulations and policies finalized by the Trump Administration involving Endangered Species Act (ESA), Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA), and other related statutes.
An initial pre-publication announcement ...
On December 15, 2020, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service (collectively, the agencies) released a pre-publication version of a final rule providing a definition of “habitat” for the purpose of informing designation of areas as “critical habitat” under the Endangered Species Act. The agencies released a proposed rule defining habitat in August 2020 in response to a unanimous decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2019 overturning a lower court decision that upheld a controversial determination of critical habitat by the U.S. Fish and ...
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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