Deception and the House SAVES Act

The House Committee on Natural Resources will debate five bills related to the Endangered Species Act (ESA) on Wednesday. Though these bills are couched in reasonable sounding phrases and catchy acronyms, promising to make the Endangered Species Act better, make no mistake: these bills are an attack on the ESA.

The bill known as the SAVES Act, H.R. 2603, is particularly dangerous, made more so by its deception. At first glance, the bill seems to be beneficial to endangered species in the United States. Its purpose is “To amend the Endangered Species Act of 1973 to provide that nonnative species in the United States shall not be treated as endangered species or threatened species for purposes of that Act.”

It’s a reasonable sounding suggestion. After all, why should we be concerned about non-native species? We have enough work just to protect our native species.

However, removing protections for non-native species means removing protections for animals ranging from African elephants to the Green Macaw. This means that a company like Feld Entertainment would no longer need a permit from Fish & Wildlife to ship endangered big cats to circuses in Europe, and wealthy hunters can import skins from freshly killed leopards.

As US Fish & Wildlife Services notes:

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) requires the Service to list species as endangered or threatened regardless of which country the species lives in. Benefits to the species include prohibitions on certain activities including import, export, take, commercial activity, interstate commerce, and foreign commerce. By regulating activities, the United States ensures that people under the jurisdiction of the United States do not contribute to the further decline of listed species. Although the ESA’s prohibitions regarding listed species apply only to people subject to the jurisdiction of the U.S., the ESA can generate conservation benefits such as increased awareness of listed species, research efforts to address conservation needs, or funding for in-situ conservation of the species in its range countries. The ESA also provides for limited financial assistance to develop and manage programs to conserve listed species in foreign countries, encourages conservation programs for such species, and allows for assistance for programs, such as personnel and training. (emph. added)

People in the United States have been responsible for the decimation of species all over the world. Removing non-native species from the ESA would remove the ability to hold Americans accountable for our actions. It would rapidly increase the risk to any number of endangered species.

Implying that removing non-native species from the ESA is a ‘positive’ action for endangered species is a lie. The SAVES Act is a lie.

 

 

The DC Courts Yank Pruitt’s Leash

The EPA operates under very strict guidelines regarding its decisions related to rules and regulations. The guidelines were in play when the EPA released a rule to cut methane emissions in May 2016. These guidelines also worked to save the rule when Pruitt’s EPA moved to arbitrarily halt its enforcement.

In a 2-1 decision in the DC Court of Appeals today the justices rejected the EPA’s assertion that its decision to ‘stay’ the methane rule for two years was not a final agency action, and therefore not subject to court overview.

The imposition of the stay, however, is an entirely different
matter. By staying the methane rule, EPA has not only concluded that section 307(d)(7)(B) requires reconsideration, but it has also suspended the rule’s compliance deadlines. EPA’s stay, in other words, is essentially an order delaying the rule’s effective date, and this court has held that such orders are tantamount to amending or revoking a rule. As we explained in a very similar situation, where an agency granted an application for interim relief from a safety standard while it reconsidered that standard: “In effect, the Administrator has granted a modification of the mandatory safety standard for the entire period of time that the petition is pending. There is no indication that the Secretary intends to reconsider this decision or to vacate the grant of interim relief. Thus, the Secretary’s decision represents the final agency position on this issue, has the status of law, and has an immediate and direct effect on the parties. Therefore, we have no difficulty concluding that the Secretary has issued a final decision . . .

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Several groups sue on reversal of Arctic Drilling ban

On May 3rd, several groups including Earth Justice, Center for Biological Diversity, Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club, and others joined with Alaska Native groups to sue the Trump administration for its reversal of the Arctic drilling ban.

The complaint states there is no Constitutional authority for Trump to reverse a Section 12(a) withdrawal, the authority President Obama used to ban Arctic drilling. In the complaint, the claim for relief states:

In reversing President Obama’s Arctic and Atlantic Ocean withdrawals, President Trump acted in excess of his authority under Article II of the U.S. Constitution and intruded on Congress’s non-delegated exclusive power under the Property Clause, in violation of the doctrine of separation of powers.

The lawsuit is in preliminary stages, and so far, no group has asked to intervene on behalf of the government, though I expect this to change.

NRDC pushes back on attempts to slow or stop environmental lawsuits

The Justice Department has asked the courts to hold EPA two court cases, including the case related to the Clean Power Plan, in abeyance. The request is a result of Trump’s recent Executive Order seeking to weaken or undermine EPA rules and regulations. The DOJ is asking for an abeyance until 30 days after the EPA determines whether to change or revoke the rules.

However, NRDC, one of many intervenors in the cases, will file motions in the courts next week asking them to deny the DOJ request.

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The GOP’s disHONEST Act against the EPA

Musician playing in empty Beijing square, mouth and nose covered to protect against the pollution

Yesterday, the House passed the Honest and Open New EPA Science, or HONEST, Act. Tortured use of acronym aside, this Act is anything but honest.

The GOP claims the act is to force the EPA to provide the raw data behind all of its decisions. However, the primary reason for the Act is to inhibit regulations based, in part, on confidential or proprietary raw data. The Act’s inspiration came from research published in 1993 and known as the Harvard Six Cities Study.

To summarize the Six Cities Study, the research found that people in cities with dirty air were dying sooner than people living in cities with clean air.

This research formed the basis for many of the EPA’s Clean Air Act regulations related to particulate matter. If you can clearly see the skyline of LA now, and breathe its air without a facial mask, thank the authors of the Six Cities Study.

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