Supreme Court Won't Hear Critical Habitat Cases

by Holly Doremus | February 23, 2011

Cross-posted from Legal Planet.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday denied certiorari on two Endangered Species Act cases, Arizona Cattle Growers Association v. Salazar and Home Builders Association of Northern California v. US Fish and Wildlife Service. The cases were considered together because they raise the same issue: how the economic impacts of critical habitat designation should be calculated. Development and extraction interests hoped the Court would use the cases to force the U.S. to take a broader view of those impacts.

The ESA requires that the Fish and Wildlife Service designate critical habitat when it lists a species as endangered or threatened. The listing decision must be based solely on the species’ biological status. In determining critical habitat, by contrast, FWS must take into economic and other impacts into consideration and may exclude areas from critical habitat if it finds “that the benefits of such exclusion outweigh the benefits of specifying such area as part of the critical habitat” unless including the area is necessary to prevent extinction.

FWS has adopted what it calls a “baseline” approach to the required economic analysis. It considers only the incremental costs imposed by critical habitat designation on top of any costs already imposed by listing alone. The costs imposed by ensuring that federal actions do not jeopardize the continued existence of a listed species, as section 7 requires, or by section 9′s prohibition on unpermitted take, do not factor ...

Cleanup Worker Safety Planning Must Not Get Forgotten in Fallout from BP Spill

by Matt Shudtz | February 22, 2011
Lizzie Grossman has a nice post over at The Pump Handle highlighting how the National Contingency Plan for major oil spills has significant gaps, which left government agencies and cleanup workers in the Gulf scrambling to figure out the right training programs and the best ways to protect workers' health and safety in the days, weeks, and months following the BP spill. But, as Lizzie points out, one of the most powerful advocates for fixing the NCP -- the National ...

Next Steps for America’s Great Outdoors

by Robert Verchick | February 21, 2011
If you’ve ever visited the Great Smoky Mountains National Park—one of the most visited national parks in the United States—you have Horace Kephart and George Masa to thank. These two men, the first a travel writer, the second a landscape photographer from Osaka, Japan, each settled among those six-thousand foot peaks with intentions of starting a new life in the American wild. Unfortunately, the timber industry had gotten there first and was soon mowing down forests at the rate of 60 ...

Who Wanted Ecuador to Try the Biggest Environmental Case in History? That Would be the Defendant, Chevron

by John Knox | February 18, 2011
On Monday, Valentine’s Day, a judge in Ecuador sent Chevron the opposite of a valentine: it ordered the giant oil company to pay $8.6 billion in damages and cleanup costs for harm caused by exploration and drilling by Texaco (acquired by Chevron in 2001) in a giant tract of rain forest near the headwaters of the Amazon River. The plaintiffs brought the class action on behalf of 30,000 indigenous residents of the region, who have long claimed that by dumping billions of ...

Judge Feldman is Still Mad

by Holly Doremus | February 18, 2011
Cross-posted from Legal Planet. You may remember Judge Martin Feldman from his decisions last summer enjoining enforcement of Interior’s first effort at a deepwater drilling moratorium, and more recently declaring that the Department must pay the legal fees of the plaintiffs in that case because it was in contempt of the injunction order. (For my take on those decisions see here and here.) No doubt the Department wished it could just slink out of the Gulf and never have to ...

Steinzor Testifies at E&C Hearing on Environmental Regulation, the Economy, and Jobs

by Rena Steinzor | February 15, 2011
CPR President Rena Steinzor is testifying at 1pm today before the House Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy. The hearing will be the latest in a string attempting to make a case that public health and safety protections must be weakened right now given the state of the economy. In her testimony, Steinzor argues: I appreciate that the majority feels it has a mandate as a result of the election. But I would urge all Members to ...

Republicans Propose Unconscionable Cuts for OSHA

by Thomas McGarity | February 14, 2011
On March 23, 2005, the worst industrial accident in 15 years killed 15 workers and injured more than 180 others as highly flammable liquids from a distillation tower were vented directly to the ground and were ignited by a spark at the huge BP Corporation Refinery in Texas City, Texas. A two-year investigation by the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSHIB) concluded that the BP Texas City refinery was “an extremely dangerous workplace by any objective standard.” An “Independent Review Panel” ...

In Discussion about Regulation on the NewsHour, Darrell Issa Gets Casual with the Truth

by Matthew Freeman | February 11, 2011
On last night’s PBS NewsHour, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, took a shot at CPR’s Sidney Shapiro, who was the lone witness that Committee Democrats were allowed to invite to testify at yesterday’s  hearing on the costs of regulation. Issa badly mischaracterized Shapiro’s testimony, saying: The minority chose a witness. Mr. Shapiro spoke on behalf of his views, which were, in a nutshell -- and he reiterated them -- that he sees no ...

What We're Reading, Oceans Edition

by Holly Doremus | February 11, 2011
Cross-posted from Legal Planet. Here’s some of what’s going on in the ocean policy world: BOEMRE is reviewing the first post-moratorium application to drill an exploratory deepwater well in the Gulf of Mexico. As required by a June Notice to Lessees, Shell’s application to drill 130 miles from shore in 2000 to 2900 feet of water includes a blowout scenario. Shell anticipates that drilling a relief well would take 109 days, during which time 12.3 million barrels of oil could ...

Live-Tweeting from Issa Hearing on Regulation

by Matthew Freeman | February 10, 2011
We'll be live-tweeting today's hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.  Follow @CPRBlog. ...

CPR's Noah Sachs in New Republic on REINS

by Matthew Freeman | February 10, 2011
CPR Member Scholar Noah Sachs has a piece on The New Republic's website dismantling the GOP House majority's favority piece of anti-regulatory legislation, the REINS Act.  The proposal would block all regulations from taking effect unless they are specifically approved by both houses of Congress within 70 days of submission and then signed into effect by the President. He writes: Last year, [the Office of Management and Budget] concluded that the annual cost of major rules issued between FY 1999 and ...

CPR's Shapiro Testifies this Morning on Benefits of Regulation

by Matthew Freeman | February 10, 2011
This morning, CPR Member Scholar Sidney Shapiro will testify before Rep. Darrell Issa's House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on the economic value of regulation.  He'll be a lone voice on the roster of witnesses.  The hearing will have two panels of witnesses.  The first will feature five industry representatives, and the second will feature two representatives of right-wing think tanks (Heritage and Mercatus), one leader of a nonprofit that advocates for small businesses, and Shapiro.  That would be eight witnesses ...

The Issa Letters: Republicans Go Hunting for Regulations

by Rena Steinzor | February 10, 2011
GOP leaders in the House of Representatives will push a resolution today directing the various committees of the House to “inventory and review existing, pending, and proposed regulations and orders from agencies of the federal government, particularly with respect to their effect on jobs and economic growth.” Thus begins what Republicans and their industry friends hope will be a productive hunting season in the rich woods of regulatory safeguards that protect public health, worker and consumer safety, and the environment. Not ...

Contempt? Not by Interior

by Holly Doremus | February 09, 2011
Cross-posted from Legal Planet. Conservative media and bloggers are making much of a ruling last week by Judge Martin Feldman of the Eastern District of Louisiana that the Department of Interior was in contempt of his June 2010 order enjoining enforcement of the May moratorium on new deepwater exploratory drilling for oil. The Washington Times, for example, accused the administration of “tempt[ing] a constitutional confrontation.” Not so fast. Judge Feldman’s latest decision says more about the contempt of some conservative ...

With Friends Like These..... White House Throws OSHA Under the Bus

by Celeste Monforton | February 08, 2011
Cross-posted from The Pump Handle. I was already tired of President Obama repeating the Republican's rhetoric about big, bad regulations, how they stifle job creation, put an unnecessary burden on businesses, and make our economy less competitive. He did so last month in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal and in his State of the Union address. But yesterday, the White House went too far. In advance of the President's speech to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the chief ...

SBA's Report on 'Costs of Regulation' Debunked

by Sidney Shapiro | February 08, 2011
Having voted to repeal health care legislation, House Republicans have now taken aim at government regulations, describing efforts to protect people and the environment as “job-killing.”  This claim conveniently papers over the fact that it was the lack of regulation of Wall Street that tanked the economy and caused the current downturn.  But nonetheless, seeking rhetorical points to boost their anti-regulations campaign, House Republicans are trumpeting a recent report, done for the Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy. The report, authored ...

EPA's Leisurely Timeline on Perchlorate Announcement Leaves Effort Vulnerable to Being Undercut

by Rena Steinzor | February 02, 2011
Today's announcement by EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson that EPA will move toward regulating perchlorate, reversing a decision by the George W. Bush Administration, is bittersweet. It’s great that EPA has recognized the need to regulate, but the agency has adopted such a leisurely timeline that the entire effort could end up being undercut. The agency said: "EPA intends to publish the proposed regulation and analyses for public review and comment within 24 months. EPA will consider the public comments and ...

Location, Location, Location: Assisted Migration May be Coming Closer to a Reality as a Response to Climate Change

by Yee Huang | February 01, 2011
a(broad) perspective While discussion of adapting to climate change is finally beginning to take off in the United States, other governments from Bangladesh to the Netherlands have already laid the foundation to develop concrete policies and implement strategies to address the impacts. Last week, a report released by the UK’s Environment Agency specifically identified relocation of coldwater fish as a possible direct response to the effects of climate change. We're going to be hearing a lot more in the coming years about ...

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