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).
The notice letter alleges several deficiencies in the BiOp, including:
On June 16, 2023, in a highly anticipated decision, the United States Court of Appeal for the D.C. Circuit set aside a biological opinion regarding the effects of the federal lobster fishery on the North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis). The court held that a presumption in favor of an endangered species is not required by the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and, further, that such a presumption can distort the agency’s scientific judgment and did so in this circumstance.
The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) issued the biological opinion in 2021 analyzing the ...
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 ...
Recently, the United States District Court for the Northern District of California refused to dismiss a lawsuit filed by a concerned citizen against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) alleging Endangered Species Act (ESA) violations in connection with the Corps’ operation of the Coyote Valley Dam on the Russian River in Northern California. The court opined that federal defendants cannot avoid having to defend their prior actions simply by initiating the consultation process under section 7(a)(2) of the ESA, and the equities ...
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 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 ...
On March 10, 2021, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld a biological opinion (BiOp) and incidental take statement (ITS) issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) in connection with a $5.2 billion project to export liquefied natural gas from a terminal located on the south bank of the Brownsville Ship Channel in Cameron County, Texas (Project). Sierra Club v. Dep’t of the Interior, Case No. 20-60319 (5th Cir. 2021). In reaching its decision, the Fifth Circuit refused to second-guess the agencies consistent with the deferential standard of ...
On February 19, 2020, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation issued a Record of Decision (ROD) on the reinitiation of consultation on the coordinated long-term operations of the Central Valley Project and State Water Project. At the same time, the President signed a memorandum on developing and delivering more water supplies in California. The Department of the Interior issued a press release describing these actions.
The execution of the ROD signals the shift from operations of the Central Valley Project and State Water Project under the biological opinions issued by the U.S. Fish and ...
On November 21, 2019, the California Secretary for Natural Resources announced California’s decision to sue the federal government over its biological opinions for continuing operations of the California State Water Project (SWP) and federal Central Valley Project (CVP).
The Projects provide water to over 20 million of Californians and support the businesses and farms across the state. In his announcement, the Secretary notes that “Difficult trade-offs have to be made unless we can find creative solutions that balance all water needs. And even then, sometimes tough ...
In a recent opinion, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed in part the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California’s grant of summary judgment to the National Marine Fisheries Service (“NMFS”) in Friends of the River v. NMFS, No. 18-15623 (9th Cir. Oct. 3, 2019).
Plaintiff Friends of the River (“FOR”) challenged (1) NMFS’ decision to characterize the existence of federally-managed dams on the Yuba River as part of the environmental baseline in a 2014 BiOp and Letter of Concurrence (“LOC”) issued to the Corps for the ...
On December 27, 2017, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit partially reversed and remanded a decision by the United States District Court for the District of Hawaii, delaying if not derailing an expansion in shallow-set longline swordfish fisheries. Environmental groups brought claims against the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) alleging violations of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, Endangered Species Act (ESA), Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA), and the National Environmental ...
Primarily relying on precedent from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth and D.C. Circuits, the U.S. District Court for the District of Maine recently dismissed an Endangered Species Act (ESA) lawsuit challenging two biological opinions issued by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) for four hydroelectric projects on the Kennebec River in Maine, finding that because the federal approvals triggering the biological opinions were issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the lawsuit had to be filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals in the first instance, not ...
On October 22, 2012, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) abused its discretion when it issued a biological opinion (BiOp) and incidental take statement for the Ruby Pipeline Project, and ordered the Service to prepare a revised BiOp. Center for Biological Diversity v. U.S. Bureau of Land Management, No. 10-72356 (9th Cir. Oct. 22, 2012) (pdf).
Specifically, the court held that the Service's "no jeopardy" and "no adverse modification" to critical habitat determinations relied on protective measures that are not ...
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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