Steve Davies

Steve Davies is editor and publisher of Endangered Species & Wetlands Report, which he started in 1995. Davies began his professional journalism career as a copy editor for the weekly Gazette Newspapers in Gaithersburg, Md., before becoming a reporter there. He then moved to Carlisle, Pa., covering Cumberland County government for the daily Sentinel. He returned to the Washington area to cover Congress and federal regulatory agencies for a series of trade newsletters before starting his own publication, which is an independent venture. Click LinkedIn for more detail.

Pebble Mine report released

 Posted by on October 6, 2015
Oct 062015
 

Was EPA too cozy with anti-Pebble Mine advocates while evaluating the potential environmental impacts of a proposed gold mine in the Bristol Bay watershed?

Former Defense Secretary William Cohen of The Cohen Group in Washington, D.C., thinks so. In a report released today (Oct. 6), he calls on Congress and the Environmental Protection Agency "to continue to explore these questions which might further illuminate EPA’s motives and better determine whether EPA has met its core obligations of government service and accountability."

"The statements and actions of EPA personnel observed during this review raise serious concerns as to whether EPA orchestrated the process to a predetermined outcome; had inappropriately close relationships with anti-mine advocates; and was candid about its decisionmaking process," Cohen said.

But he said he didn't try "to reach conclusions on these issues."

The Natural Resources Defense Council's Taryn Kiekow Heimer said of the report in "Pebble Mine's Mouthpiece", "There's nothing new here except for the fact that William Cohen has now been added to the company's list of paid consultants." In his report, the former defense secretary says,

  • EPA failed to address important considerations that would be included in the NEPA/Permit Process, including meaningful participation by other state and federal government agencies, mitigation and controls as proposed by the developer, and an array of public interest factors;
  • The Permit/NEPA Process has been used for decades and has been widely endorsed
    by environmental groups;
  • EPA relied upon the BBWA in its Proposed Determination but acknowledged that there were significant gaps in its assessment and that it was not designed to duplicate or replace the Permit/NEPA Process; and
  • EPA’s unprecedented, preemptive use of Section 404(c) inhibited the involvement of two key participants: the Corps and the State of Alaska.

"These observations have informed my conclusion that that EPA’s application of Section 404(c) prior to the filing of a permit application was not fair to all stakeholders," he continued, finding that:

The fairest and most appropriate process to evaluate possible development in the Pebble Deposit Area would use the
established regulatory Permit/NEPA Process to assess a mine permit application, rather than using an assessment based upon the hypothetical mining scenarios described in the BBWA as the basis for imposing potentially prohibitive restrictions on future mines.

"We made letter requests to more than 200 stakeholders who hold diverse views about EPA’s actions to invite them to provide information and share their views. I had no subpoena power nor any other method of compelling participation. Nevertheless, more than 60 individuals responded to my invitations and voluntarily spoke with me or members of my team. These individuals represented constituencies that publicly have expressed supporting, opposing, and neutral views about a potential Pebble mine. These interviews included those of current and former Alaska government representatives, including from the Alaska Department of Natural Resources (“ADNR”); former federal agency personnel, including from the Corps; representatives from Alaska Native tribes and Alaska Native organizations in the Bristol Bay area; former Congressional aides; scientists, including experts who publicly expressed views against a potential Pebble mine; peer reviewers of the BBWA [EPA's report, "An Assessment of Potential Mining Impacts on Salmon Ecosystems of Bristol Bay, Alaska”] and of scientific papers cited in that assessment; engineering and environmental consultants; representatives of the Pebble Partnership, Northern Dynasty, and Hunter Dickinson; and a former investor in the Pebble project."

Here's coverage from the Hill and Alaska Dispatch News.    More links: Maps from the report.

                                                      Executive Summary

Oct 052015
 
From DOJ's web site:
"This live event is now over. Please check http://www.justice.gov/featured-video shortly to watch the recorded version.

"Prepared remarks: Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch Delivers Remarks at Press Conference Announcing Settlement with BP to Resolve Civil Claims Over Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

>> GOOD MORNING. THIS IS YOUR TWO-MINUTE WARNING. WE HAVE SEVERAL SPEAKERS. ATTORNEY GENERAL LORETTA LYNCH WILL BEGIN. SHE WILL BE FOLLOWED BY THE SECRETARY OF COMMERCE, FOLLOWED BY THE SECRETARY KEEP -- SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE, TONSIL SET, FOLLOWED BY THE EPA ADMINISTRATOR GINA MCCARTHY, FOLLOWED BY THE INTERIOR DEPUTY SECRETARY AND LASTLY BY ADMIRAL ZUKUNFT FROM THE U.S. COAST GUARD. WE WILL GET STARTED IN TWO MINUTES. THANK YOU.

ATTORNEY GENERAL LYNCH: WELL, GOOD MORNING, ALL. THANK YOU ALL FOR BEING HERE. I AM HAPPY TO ANNOUNCE I AM JOINED HERE BY SECRETARY PENNY PRITZKER FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF CONGRESS -- COMMERCE, SECRETARY TOM BILL FACT, ADMINISTRATOR GINA MCCARTHY, DEPUTY SECRETARY MIKE O'CONNOR FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, COMMON DENT PAULSON GOOFED -- COMMANDANT PAUL ZUKUNFT. QUITE A TEAM BECAUSE WE HAVE QUITE AN ANNOUNCEMENT. WE ARE HERE TO ANNOUNCE A MAJOR STEP FORWARD IN OUR EFFORT TO DELIVER JUSTICE TO THE GULF REGION.  FIVE-AND-A-HALF YEARS AGO THE WORLD WATCHED AS THE DEEPWATER HORIZON EXPLODED. DEEP UNDER THE SURFACE, IT WAS RELEASING -- IT WAS GUSHING INTO THE GULF. STAINING MORE THAN 1,300 MILES OF COASTLINE. WITH THAT EXPLOSION, LIVES WERE LOST. THE GULF WAS FLOODED WITH OIL AND THE GULF COAST WAY OF LIFE, A UNIQUELY AMERICAN WAY OF LIFE, WAS HANGING BY A THREAD. OVER NEARLY THREE MONTHS, THE GULF REGION WAS INUNDATED WITH NEARLY 3 MILLION BARRELS OF OIL, AND BY THE TIME THE TORT STOPPED, IT HAD -- THE TORRENT HAD STOPPED, IT HAD INFLICTED UNPRECEDENTED DAMAGE. ECOSYSTEMS WERE DISRUPTED. BUSINESSES WERE SHUTTERED. COUNTLESS MEN AND WOMEN LOST THEIR LIVELIHOODS AND THEIR SENSE OF SECURITY. THAT IS WHY IN DECEMBER OF 2010, THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE FILED A LAWSUIT AGAINST BP TO HOLD THE COMPANY RESPONSIBLE AND PROVIDE VITAL RELIEF FOR THE PEOPLE OF THE GULF REGION. AND THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT WE DID. AT TRIAL, WE PROVED THAT THE SPILL WAS THE RESULT OF BP'S GROSS NEGLIGENCE. ENSURING THAT IT TRANSLATED TO REAL RELIEF FOR THE PEOPLE, THE BUSINESSES, AND THE FISH AND WILDLIFE WAS THE ESSENTIAL STEP. WE HAVE SECURED AN HISTORIC RESOLUTION OF OUR PENDING CLAIMS AGAINST BP, TOTALING MORE THAN $20 BILLION, MAKING IT THE LARGEST SETTLEMENT AGAINST ANY ENTITY IN AMERICAN HISTORY. IT INCLUDES FINES FOR VIOLATING THE CLEAN WATER ACT, THE LARGEST CIVIL PENALTY IN THE HISTORY OF ENVIRONMENTAL LAW. IT INCLUDES DAMAGES CLAIMS UNDER THE OIL POLLUTION ACT, WHERE BP HAS AGREED TO PAY 7.1 BILLION DOLLARS. IT ALSO INCLUDES DAMAGES CLAIMS FOR WHICH BP HAS AGREED TO PAY $4.9 BILLION TO THE FIVE GULF STATES AND UP TO $1 BILLION TO LOCAL GOVERNMENTS. ONCE APPROVED BY THE COURT, THIS AGREEMENT WILL LAUNCH ONE OF THE LARGEST ENVIRONMENTAL RESTORATION EFFORTS THE WORLD HAS EVER SEEN. UNDER THE RESTORE ACT, 85% OF THE CARL BARBIER -- CLEAN WATER ACT PENALTY WILL GO TO CLEAN UP THE DAMAGES THE GULF REGION HAS SUFFERED. IN ADDITION, IT WILL FUND GULF RESTORATION PROJECTS THAT WILL REVITALIZE DAMAGED HABITATS SUCH AS COASTAL WETLANDS AND SUPPORT THE REVIVAL OF MARINE MAMMALS, SEA TURTLES, OYSTERS, AND BIRDS. THIS WORK WILL BE DOTTED BY A COMPREHENSIVE RESTORATION PLAN WE ARE ALSO ANNOUNCING TODAY, DEVELOPED BY A TRUSTEE COUNCIL MADE UP OF 4 FEDERAL AGENCIES, ALL HERE TODAY, AND TRUSTEES FROM ALL FIVE GULF STATES. TAKEN AS A WHOLE, THIS RESTORATION IS STRONG AND FITTING. BP IS RECEIVING THE PUNISHMENT IT DESERVES, WHILE ALSO PROVIDING CRITICAL COMPENSATION TO THE DAMAGE TO THE GULF REGION. THIS SHOULD PROMPT BP AND ITS PEERS TO TAKE EVERY STEP TO MAKE SURE NOTHING LIKE THIS CAN EVER HAPPEN AGAIN AND THE RESOLUTION'S FOCUS ON RESTORING THE VITALITY OF THE AFFECTED AREAS WILL PROVIDE SIGNIFICANT RESOURCES TO THE REGION'S ONGOING RECOVERY AND WILL HELP ENSURE GULF COMMUNITIES EMERGE FROM THIS DISASTER STRONGER AND MORE RESILIENT THAN EVER BEFORE. I AM TREMENDOUSLY PROUD THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE HAS HELPED LEAD THE WAY FROM TRAGEDY TO OPPORTUNITY AND I'M EXCEEDINGLY THANKFUL FOR THE MANY PARTNERSHIPS THAT WERE CRUCIAL FOR ACHIEVING THIS RESULT AND I AM CONFIDENT THAT THE RESOLUTION WE HAVE ANNOUNCED TODAY WILL RESTORE, PROTECT, AND PRESERVE THE PRECIOUS GULF ENVIRONMENT FOR MANY GENERATIONS TO COME. OBVIOUSLY, TODAY'S EXTRAORDINARY RESOLUTION WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN POSSIBLE WITHOUT THE TIRELESS EFFORTS OF THE DEEPWATER HORIZON TRIAL TEAM, WHICH IS COMPRISED OF REMARKABLE MEN AND WOMEN FROM THE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT'S ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES DIVISION AND OUR CIVIL DIVISION. I WOULD ALSO LIKE TO RECOGNIZE AND THANK OUR OUTSTANDING PARTNERS AT THE EPA, AT THE DEPARTMENTS OF COMMERCE, AGRICULTURE, INTERIOR, AND HOMELAND SECURITY, AND IN STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENTS THROUGHOUT THE GULF REGION. FINALLY I WOULD LIKE TO ACKNOWLEDGE MY PREDECESSOR, ERIC HOLDER, WHO LAUNCHED THIS CASE FIVE YEARS AGO AND FAITHFULLY SUPERVISED IT FOR THE REMAINDER OF HIS TENURE AS ATTORNEY GENERAL. AT THIS TIME, IT IS MY PLEASURE TO INTRODUCE THE SECRETARY OF COMMERCE, PENNY PRITZKER, WHO WILL PROVIDE ADDITIONAL DETAILS ON TODAY'S ANNOUNCEMENT.

SECRETARY PRITZKER: THANK YOU, ATTORNEY GENERAL LYNCH, FOR WELCOMING US ALL TO THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE AND FOR YOUR LEADERSHIP IN THIS REMARKABLE SETTLEMENT. I ALSO WANT TO THANK MY COLLEAGUES FROM ACROSS THE CABINET AND ALL OF OUR TEAMS WHO HAVE SPENT FIVE YEARS AND THOUSANDS OF HOURS WORKING WITH STATE PARTNERS IN THIS AREA -- IN THIS EFFORT. TODAY MARKS AN HISTORIC MILESTONE FOR THE PEOPLE, BUSINESSES, AND ENVIRONMENT OF THE GULF REGION. FIVE YEARS AFTER THE DEEPWATER HORIZON OIL SPILL, THE SETTLEMENT REAFFIRMS OUR ADMINISTRATION'S CLEAR, ONGOING, AND UNWAVERING COMMITMENT TO SECURING JUSTICE FOR THE GULF COMMUNITIES. TO SPURRING ECONOMIC GROWTH ACROSS GULF STATES, AND TO ENSURING THE GULF COAST COMES BACK STRONGER AND MORE VIBRANT THAN EVER. HOME TO AMPLE ENERGY RESOURCES AND 10 OF AMERICA'S 15 LARGEST PORTS, THE GULF COAST IS CRITICAL TO THE PROSPERITY OF OUR ENTIRE NATION. FROM THE START, THE DEPARTMENT OF CONGRESS -- THE DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE HAS PLAYED A CENTRAL ROLE IN EFFORTS TO RESTORE THE REGION'S ECOSYSTEM AND REVITALIZE ITS ECONOMY. WITH OUR PARTNERS, WE ESTABLISHED THE RESTORE COUNCIL, WHICH I CHAIR. THIS AGENCY HAS MADE $183 MILLION AVAILABLE FOR ESSENTIAL PROGRAMS AND PROJECTS, SUCH AS SKILLS TRAINING FOR LOCAL COMMUNITIES, IMPROVEMENTS IN WATER QUALITY AND HABITAT RESTORATION FOR FISH, BIRDS, AND WILDLIFE. FOR OUR DEPARTMENT'S NATIONAL OCEANIC ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION WE WORKED WITH STATE AND FEDERAL PARTNERS. WE HAVE WORKED TO INVEST OVER $800 MILLION OF BP EARLY RESTORATION FUNDS IN THE GULF'S NATURAL RESOURCES. TO OUR ECONOMIC ENVIRONMENTAL ADMINISTRATION, TEAMS WERE ON THE GROUNDS IN THE GULF STATES TO LEARN FIRSTHAND WHAT THE GULF COMMUNITIES NEEDED TO REVIVE THEIR ECONOMIES AND DRAW INVESTMENTS TO THEIR MARKETS. THAT INFORMATION GUIDED THE INVESTMENT OF OVER FOUR HUNDRED $66 MILLION IN WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT PARTNERSHIPS AND ASSISTANT FOR ENTREPRENEURS IN HIGH WAGE, HIGH GROWTH INDUSTRIES ACROSS THE REGION. THESE ARE ONLY SOME OF THE STEPS WE HAVE TAKEN, IN CLOSE COOPERATION WITH LOCAL STATE -- LOCAL, STATE, AND FEDERAL PARTNERS TO REINVIGORATE THE GULF. WE KNOW THERE IS STILL FAR MORE TO DO, AND WITH THIS SETTLEMENT OF MORE THAN $20 BILLION, OUR WORK CONTINUES. NOW WE CAN MOVE FORWARD WITH MORE EFFECTIVE RESTORATION PLANNING, LARGE SCALE PROJECTS, AND SMART INVESTMENTS IN ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND ENVIRONMENTAL RESILIENCE. TODAY, AS PART OF THIS SETTLEMENT, LEADERS FROM COMMERCE, FROM THE AGENCIES REPRESENTED HERE, AND THE FIVE STATES OF THE GULF REGION ARE PROPOSING A NATIONAL -- A NATURAL RESOURCES RESTORATION PLAN. THIS PROPOSAL IS ROOTED IN THE BEST AVAILABLE SCIENCE AND HARD DATA. INFORMATION NEEDED TO ASSESS THE DAMAGE FROM THE OIL SPILL, DETERMINE THE BEST COURSE OF ACTION, AND MAKE SMART FUNDING DECISIONS THROUGHOUT THE GULF. OUR PLAN WILL MAKE 8.1 BILLION DOLLARS OF INVESTMENTS ACROSS THE GULF COAST, AND IN THE OPEN OCEAN, TO RESTORE COASTAL AND NEARSHORE HABITATS, IMPROVE WATER QUALITY IN COASTAL WETLANDS, PROTECT AND RECOVER MARINE RESOURCES, AND ENHANCE RECREATIONAL USE OPPORTUNITIES. TOGETHER, THESE INITIATIVES WILL HOLD ON OUR EFFORTS OF THE LAST FIVE YEARS TO MOVE GULF COMMUNITIES FROM RECOVERY TO RESTORATION TWO RESURGENCE. -- TO RESEARCHERS. THIS UNPRECEDENTED SETTLEMENT OFFERS AN UNPRECEDENTED OPPORTUNITY. IN OPPORTUNITY TO SET A COURSE FOR ECONOMIC SUSTAINABILITY FOR THE GULF COAST NOW AND INTO THE FUTURE. IN OPPORTUNITY TO ENSURE THE HEALTH AND PROSPERITY OF THE GULF REGION OVER THE LONG-TERM. AN OPPORTUNITY TO RESTORE THE ENVIRONMENT, REINVIGORATE THE ECONOMY, CREATE JOBS IN LOUISIANA, MISSISSIPPI, TEXAS, FLORIDA, AND ALABAMA. IN ALL OF THE COMMUNITIES AFFECTED BY THE DISASTER. SEIZING THIS OPPORTUNITY WILL REQUIRE COORDINATION, PARTNERSHIP, AN INNOVATION ACROSS ALL LEVELS OF GOVERNMENT, THE PRIVATE SECTOR, AND THE PEOPLE WHO LIVE AND WORK IN THE GULF. LET'S WORK TOGETHER TO KEEP THE GULF COAST GROWING, THRIVING, AND OPEN FOR BUSINESS. AND NOW I WOULD LIKE TO INTRODUCE OUR SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE, SECRETARY BILL SECOND -- SECRETARY VILSAC K.

SECRETARY VILSACK: I WANT TO THANK ATTORNEY GENERAL LYNCH AND HER FABULOUS TEAM FOR THE OPPORTUNITY TO BE HERE THIS MORNING. YOU MAY BE WONDERING WHY IT IS NECESSARY FOR THE DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE TO BE REPRESENTED HERE. THE REALITY IS, 45% OF THE LAND OF ACTED BY THE GULF WILL SPILL -- OIL SPILL IS PRIVATELY OWNED. IT IS PLACES WHERE WE, THE DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE, PARTNERED WITH PRODUCERS TO MAKE SURE THEIR LAND CONTINUE TO BE PRODUCTIVE. THE DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE WORKED VERY HARD TO RESTORE HABITAT. THERE WAS A SITUATION WITH WILDLIFE PARTICULARLY, DUCKS, GEESE. WE HELPED ESTABLISH AN AREA THAT LED TO TENS OF MILLIONS OF BIRDS BEING ABLE TO LIVE AND PROVIDING RECREATION THAT IS SO VITAL TO THE GULF COAST AREA. THIS IS OBVIOUSLY NOT EASY LITIGATION. AND I THINK THE LEVEL OF THE SETTLEMENT REFLECTS THE IMPORTANCE THAT HER TEAM HAS PLACED ON THIS NATIONAL TREASURE. PENNY PRITZKER AND THE DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE IS GOING TO PROVIDE RATE LEADERSHIP, AND I'M HERE SIMPLY TO INDICATE THE DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE AND THE NATIONAL CONSERVATION SERVICE AND THE FOREST SERVICE ARE PREPARED WITH SEVERAL HUNDRED PEOPLE IN EVERY SIGNAL COUNTY AFFECTED BY THIS TO WORK IN COLLABORATION TO RENEW, REFRESH, REVITALIZE THE GULF COAST. IT IS A NATIONAL TREASURE FOR THE ENTIRE COUNTRY. THIS IS AN IMPORTANT SETTLEMENT AND WE HAVE IMPORTANT WORK TO DO. WE ARE EXCITED ABOUT THE POSSIBILITY AND THE OPPORTUNITY TO MAKE THE GULF COAST EVEN BETTER THAN IT WAS PRIOR TO THE SPILL. BUT WITHOUT THE WORK OF THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE WE WOULD NOT BE HERE TODAY, AND WITHOUT THE LEADERSHIP OF PENNY PRITZKER AND OTHER FEDERAL AGENCIES, WE WOULD NOT BE WHERE WE ARE TODAY. SOMEONE WILL HAVE A GREAT DEAL OF RESPONSIBILITY WITH CONNECTION OF THE RECOVERY EFFORTS, THE DEPARTMENT LED BY SOMEONE WHO IS TENACIOUS, WHO HAS DONE AN INCREDIBLE JOB AS ADMINISTRATOR, MY GOOD FRIEND, GINA MCCARTHY.

ADMINISTRATOR MCCARTHY: THANK YOU, MR. SECRETARY. LET ME BEGIN BY THANKING ATTORNEY GENERAL LYNCH, AND DOJ'S ONGOING LEADERSHIP, INCLUDING JOHN CRUDEN, WHO HAS BEEN AN OUTSTANDING LEADER. I AM ALSO GRATEFUL TO HAVE SUCH HARD-WORKING COLLEAGUES ACROSS DEPARTMENTS AND COLLEAGUES WHO ARE REPRESENTED HERE TODAY. I ALSO WANT TO RECOGNIZE THE TREMENDOUS LEADERSHIP OF LISA JACKSON DURING THIS EVENT. AS SHE WILL KNOWS AND ALL OF US REMEMBER, THE BP OIL SPILL WAS A TREMENDOUS TRAGEDY, PLAIN AND SIMPLE. ALONG WITH THE DEVASTATING TOLL ON HUMAN LIFE, THE SPILL PUT THE GULF COAST COMMUNITIES IN A TIME OF PAINFUL UNCERTAINTY. FORCING QUESTIONS NO AMERICAN FAMILY SHOULD HAVE TO ASK -- IS MY FOOD SAFETY IT? SHOULD MY KIDS PLAYING YOUR THE SHORE? IS THE AIR STILL CLEAN DEBRIS OF? WILL MY BUSINESSES EVER RECOVER? TODAY IS A DAY OF JUSTICE FOR EVERY FAMILY AND COMMUNITY WHOSE HELP, LAND, WATER, AND LIVELIHOODS WERE THREATENED BY THE BP OIL SPILL. NO AMOUNT OF MONEY CAN ERASE THE FEAR AND LOSS THEY ENDURED, BUT IT CAN HELP THEM RECOVER AND REBUILD. JUSTICE IS NOT ABOUT DUMPING A PILE OF MONEY AND WALKING AWAY. IT IS ABOUT INVESTING IN SUSTAINABLE WAYS THAT EMPOWER AND STRENGTHEN THE GULF COMMUNITIES OVER THE LONG TERM. THAT IS WHY WITH BILLIONS OF DOLLARS THAT WILL BE DISTRIBUTED OVER THE NEXT 15 YEARS, WE ARE RELEASING A 15-YEAR GULF RESTORATION PLAN. THIS PLAN WILL HELP MAKE SURE THAT SETTLEMENT FUNDS ARE DEPLOYED IN WAYS THAT MAKE A LASTING DIFFERENCE. JUSTICE IS ABOUT MAKING THE NECESSARY CHANGES TO PREVENT A DISASTER LIKE THIS FROM HAPPENING AGAIN. YOU WILL RECALL AFTER THE SPILL, BP WAS BARRED FROM DOING BUSINESS WITH THE U.S. GOVERNMENT. IN REACHING AN AGREEMENT TO LIFT THE SUSPENSION, BP VIGOROUSLY PURSUED AND MET A SET OF REQUIREMENTS EP MUST NOW -- BP MUST NOW FOLLOW TO MAKE SURE THEY DO NOT REPEAT THE DISASTER. THIS WILL INCLUDE TRANSPARENCY MEASURES THAT WILL KEEP BP OPENLY ACCOUNTABLE TO THESE APPLICATIONS AND MAKE SURE EVERYONE KNOWS TAKING THE REQUIRED STEPS TO DO BETTER IN THE FUTURE ARE ACTUALLY HAPPENING AND ON TIME. TOO CLOSE, TODAY IS A SOBER TRIUMPH FOR THE CLEAN WATER ACT AND THE OIL POLLUTION ACT. THEY ARE CORNERSTONES OF THE EPA'S WORK. THESE LAWS ALLOW THE EPA TO PURSUE OUR MISSION OF PROTECTING PEOPLE'S HELP AND THE ENVIRONMENT -- PEOPLE'S HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT. THIS CONSENT DECREE IS A DEMONSTRATION OF OUR NATIONS IN OUR MENTAL LAWS HARD AT WORK ON BEHALF OF THE AMERICAN PEOPLE. TODAY THEY ARE BRINGING JUSTICE TO THE GULF. LET ME TURN NOW AND ASK MIKE CONNOR -- MIKE O'CONNOR TO OFFER SOME REMARKS.

SECRETARY O'CONNOR: THANK YOU. GOOD MORNING. THANK YOU, MADAM ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR YOUR LEADERSHIP AND THE WORK OF YOUR TEAM, WORKING WITH ALL OF THE FEDERAL AGENCIES TO BRING TOGETHER THIS HISTORIC EVENT. THIS HISTORIC CONSENT DECREE. I AM PLEASED TO REPRESENT THE INTERIOR DEPARTMENT. NOT ONLY IS IT A TREMENDOUS VICTORY FOR THE GULF. IT IS A TREMENDOUS VICTORY FOR THE RESTORATION OF THE NATION'S PRECIOUS LAND, WATER, AND WILDLIFE RESOURCES. AS YOU HAVE HEARD, THE DEEPWATER HORIZON SPILL WAS THE LARGEST ENVIRONMENTAL DISASTER IN OUR COUNTRY'S HISTORY. IT CLAIMED THE LIVES OF 11 MEN. ALSO SOILED MORE THAN 33 MILES OF THE GULF REGION AND DAMAGED MORE THAN 1300 MILES OF COASTLINE BETWEEN TEXAS AND FLORIDA. TODAY'S ANNOUNCEMENT REPRESENTS GREAT PROGRESS AS WE MOVE TOWARD RESTORATION AND REMEDIATION EFFORTS IN THE GULF, BUT IT'S EQUALLY IMPORTANT TO MAKE SURE THAT HISTORY DOES NOT REPEAT ITSELF. WE LOST CONFERENCE OF -- WE'VE LAUNCHED COME PRAISE OF REFORMS. DOI RESTRUCTURED ITS REGULATORY APPROACH TO INCIDENTS LIKE THIS TO ENSURE THE UNITED STATES CAN SAFELY AND RESPONSIBLY DEVELOP ITS OIL AND GAS RESOURCES OFFSHORE. NOW WE HAVE TWO INDEPENDENT REGULATORY AGENCIES. BOTH HAVE CLEAR MISSIONS AND ARE BETTER RESOURCED THAN THEIR INSTITUTIONAL PREDECESSOR. IT IS STEEPED IN A CULTURE OF SAFETY AND ENSURING THE HIGHEST TECHNOLOGICAL STANDARDS FOR THE AGENCY. THEY ARE ENSURING THAT THERE ARE ROBUST ENVIRONMENTAL SAFEGUARDS BASED ON THE BEST AVAILABLE SCIENCE. IN SHORT, WE ARE ENHANCING DRILLING AND WORKER SAFETY IN THE GULF REGION. WE REMAIN EMITTED TO CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT AND WILL CONTINUE TO ENGAGE THE INDUSTRY AND ALL STAKEHOLDERS TO CONTINUE TO ENSURE SAFE AND RESPONSIBLE OPERATIONS OFFSHORE. WE ARE CONTINUING AND MAKING A GOOD VALUE OF THE INVESTMENTS THAT ARE BEING MADE AS A RESULT OF TODAY'S CONSENT DECREE. AS YOU HAVE HEARD, THE DEEPWATER HORIZON DAMAGE FILED THE DRAFT PLAN AND THE DRAFT DIS. COMMENTS ARE BEING TAKEN THROUGH DECEMBER 4. THE PLAN PROVIDES A FRAMEWORK FOR ALL THE TRUSTEES WILL USE THE EIGHT $.1 BILLION -- $8.1 BILLION MADE AVAILABLE. IN ADDITION I WOULD LIKE TO POINT OUT THE GULF COAST RESTORATION COUNCIL, RESTORE COUNCIL, PUBLISHED A BRIEF A WEEK AGO WHICH ESTABLISHED A FORMULA FOR ALLOCATING RESOURCES ACCORDING TO REPRESENTING THE SPOILED SHORELINE THAT OCCURRED DURING THE TRAGEDY. THAT WILL ALLOCATE THE $5.5 BILLION THAT WILL GO TO BE INVESTED UNDER THE RESTORE PROGRAM. THESE ACTIONS REPRESENT A CRITICAL MOVE FORWARD. AS THE ATTORNEY GENERAL AND OTHERS HAVE NOTED, NOTHING CAN UNDO THE DISLOCATION, ANXIETY, AND UNCERTAINTY FOR FAMILIES AND BUSINESSES ACROSS THE GULF REGION. THE SETTLEMENT ACCOMPLISHED EXACTLY WHAT ENVIRONMENT THE LAWS ARE SUPPOSED TO DO. THE INTERIOR LOOKS FORWARD TO THE RESTORATION EFFORTS GOING FORWARD. WITH THAT, I WOULD LIKE TO TURN IT OVER TO ADMIRAL ZUKUNFT FROM THE UNITED STATES COAST GUARD.

ADMIRAL ZUKUNFT: ATTORNEY GENERAL LYNCH, AND I REALLY WANT TO THANK EVERYBODY HERE WHO REPRESENTS ALL OF GOVERNMENT. FIVE AND A HALF YEARS AGO, I WAS THERE. AND THIS IS BEFORE AND THIS IS AFTER, BUT THIS IS IMPLEMENTED OF WHAT THE WHOLE OF GOVERNMENT CAN DO, THE WHOLE OF FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. IF I LOOK BACK TO THE TIME I WAS WORKING, THEY HAD ATTORNEY GENERAL HOLDER. THE SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR, KEN SALAZAR, JANET NAPOLITANO, OTHERS. THEY ARE NOT WITH US TODAY, BUT THEIR WORK AND THEIR VISION HAVE REALLY MADE THIS HISTORIC DAY POSSIBLE. I WILL JUST TAKE YOU BACK FIVE AND A HALF YEARS AGO. AS THE FEDERAL ON SCENE COORDINATOR FOR WHAT WAS THEN THE WORST ENVIRONMENTAL TRAGEDY IN UNITED STATES HISTORY, I JUST WANT TO SHARE WITH YOU FROM THE EYES OF THE NEARLY 45,000 RESPONDERS THAT ANSWERED TO THIS BILL -- MANY OF THEM LIVED IN THESE COMMUNITIES. MANY OF THEM WORKED IN THE OFFSHORE OIL INDUSTRY. MANY OF THEM WERE FISHERMEN. MANY RELIED ON TOURISM. AND THEY SAW THEIR WAY OF LIFE BEING ERODED AND PERHAPS THE CHANGED. AND I TRIED TO ASSURE THEM DURING THAT TIME THAT, YES, WE WILL EMERGE FROM THIS TRAGEDY BETTER THAN WE FOUND IT, AND THAT WAS OUR JOB DURING THIS RESPONSE, TO RETURN THE GULF BETTER THAN WE HAD FOUND IT. IT WAS 25 YEARS SINCE I HAD BEEN IN THE GULF OF MEXICO. I WAS A COMMERCIAL FISHERMAN WHEN I WAS A LIEUTENANT IN THE COAST GUARD. I WOULD HAVE TO GO THROUGH A LABYRINTH OF WETLANDS TO GET OUT INTO THE GULF OF MEXICO. I LOOKED OUT ON THE BAY, THERE WAS THE GULF OF MEXICO AND THERE WERE THOSE WETLANDS. AS WE LOOK AT HOW PRISTINE THIS ENVIRONMENT IS AND HOW VITAL IT IS TO THIS ECOSYSTEM, CLEARLY THIS WAS NOT A PROBLEM THE UNITED STATES COAST GUARD COULD SERVE ON ITS OWN. OUR MEMBERS LIVE IN THESE COMMUNITIES. WE CONTINUE TO RESPOND AND RELATED TO THIS OIL SPILL AS I STAND BEFORE YOU TODAY, BUT TODAY IS INDEED A MILESTONE DAY. WE HAVE TURNED THE CORNER. NOT ONLY TURNED THE CORNER, BUT THERE IS A RESTORATION PLAN IN PLACE. I KNOW WHAT IT TAKES WITH ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STUDIES TO GET THIS CRITICAL WORK DONE AND GET IT DONE IN A TIMELY MANNER AND THIS IS NOTHING LESS A HERCULEAN EFFORT ACROSS THE WHOLE OF GOVERNMENT TO MAKE THIS LOSS OF ALL, BECAUSE AT THE END OF THE DAY, IT IS COMMUNITIES WHO ON THE GULF COAST TO FIVE AND A HALF YEARS AGO SAID OUR WAY OF LIFE HAS CHANGED AND THEY WAKE UP AND SAY, YES, OUR WAY OF LIFE HAS CHANGED -- FOR THE BETTER. I THINK YOU AND I THINK ALL OF THE TEAM MEMBERS. WHO MADE THIS DAY POSSIBLE. THANK YOU.

ATTORNEY GENERAL LYNCH: ALL RIGHT, QUESTIONS TODAY?

REPORTER: ATTORNEY GENERAL, THE COMPANY HAS LONG VALUE DISTILLATE $18.7 BILLION. CAN YOU EXPLAIN THE DISCREPANCY IN THE EVALUATION?

ATTORNEY GENERAL LYNCH: THE COMPANY DID RESERVE $18 BILLION EARLIER THIS YEAR. OVER TIME WE HAVE REFINED THOSE NUMBERS. WE ALSO ADDED IN AMOUNTS OF MONEY THE COMPANY PROVIDED FOR RESTORATION TO THE GULF. THIS IS WHY YOU SEE THIS. IT WAS SIMPLY OVER TIME. THIS IS A MORE EXACT NUMBER.

REPORTER: LOCALITIES THAT WERE HOLDING OUT AND HOPING FOR THE PROSPECT OF MORE MONEY, ARE THERE ANY REMAINING HOLDOUTS , PARISHES IN THE LOUISIANA, THAT ARE NOT COVERED, OR IS EVERY SINGLE JURISDICTION COVERED NOW?

ATTORNEY GENERAL LYNCH: I BELIEVE THE FIVE GULF STATES ARE ANNOUNCING THEIR OWN RESOLUTIONS, WHICH WE ARE COVERING IN THIS ALSO. I HAVE TO DEFER TO YOUR SPECIFIC ANNOUNCEMENTS. THERE CERTAINLY MAY BE SOME. WE DO NOT HAVE THE PARTICULARS ON THAT. WE CERTAINLY HOPE THEY CAN FIND RESOLUTION.

REPORTER: IF I'M DOING MY MATH RIGHT, THIS COMES TO $155 PER BARREL SPILLED. WHAT WAS THE MAXIMUM YOU COULD HAVE SOUGHT?

ATTORNEY GENERAL LYNCH: WELL, THANKS FOR THE MATH. [LAUGHTER] THE MAXIMUM PENALTY WOULD HAVE BEEN A LITTLE OVER $13 BILLION. THAT WOULD HAD TO HAVE BEEN FOUND BY THE COURT, UPHELD ON APPEAL, AND IT WOULD HAVE SIGNIFICANTLY NOT ACCOUNTED FOR THE DELAYS IN GETTING RECOVERY TO THE GULF. THIS IS STILL THE LARGEST ENVIRONMENTAL PENALTY UNDER THE CLEAN WATER ACT AND OIL POLLUTION ACT EVER. IT IS SIGNIFICANTLY HIGHER THAN THE PENALTIES EXHAUSTED -- EXACTED FOR THE EXXON VALDEZ DISASTER, WHICH PEOPLE OFTEN COMPARE THIS TO. WE FEEL THAT THIS WILL, WITH THE COOPERATION OF THE AGENCIES HERE AND THE GULF STATES, LEAD TO REAL RELIEF FOR THE PEOPLE AND CITIZENS OF THE GULF. THE EPA HAS INDICATED THEY HAVE UPDATED NUMBERS WHICH MAY BE HELPFUL TO YOU. LET ME TURN IT OVER TO GINA MCCARTHY FOR THAT INFORMATION.

ADMINISTRATOR MCCARTHY: I JUST WANTED TO INDICATE WE HAVE GREAT RESPECT FOR THE MEDIA. WE DISAGREE ON THE NUMBERS HERE. EPA'S CALCULATION IT IS $17 PER BARREL OF OIL SPILLED.

REPORTER: I WAS CLOSE. [LAUGHTER]

ADMINISTRATOR MCCARTHY: I WISH YOU GAVE US THAT KIND OF LATITUDE WHEN WE DO THINGS. [LAUGHTER]

REPORTER: LET ME JUST FOLLOW UP THEN AND TRY TO SALVAGE -- I GOT THAT NUMBER FROM "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL" BY THE WAY -- [LAUGHTER] WHAT WOULD HAVE BEEN, IF THAT IS THE TOTAL, COULD YOU HAVE SOUGHT MORE? WHAT WAS THE MAXIMUM PER BARREL YOU COULD HAVE SOUGHT IS WHAT I AM TRYING TO FIND OUT?

ATTORNEY GENERAL LYNCH: THE PENALTIES ARE NOT ALLOCATED ON A PER BARREL BASIS. IT IS ON THE DAMAGE THAT OCCURRED. I THINK THE MAXIMUM WE COULD HAVE GOTTEN IF WE STAYED IN COURT AND FOR THIS TO THE BITTER AND FOR SEVERAL MORE YEARS, WE COULD HAVE GOTTEN AN AWARD, STATUTORILY, OF OVER $13 BILLION. THAT WAS ASSUMING THE COURT WOULD HAVE AWARDED THAT AMOUNT OF MONEY. THAT IS CLOSE TO THE MAXIMUM UNDER THE STATUTE WE COULD HAVE GOTTEN. LOOKING AT THE DAMAGE THAT WAS INCURRED HERE, AND AGAIN, IT WOULD HAVE BEEN UPHELD ON APPEAL TO RECOVER THAT MONEY. THOSE OF THE NUMBERS AVAILABLE UNDER THE STATUE, -- UNDER THE STATUTE, BUT WE FELT THIS RESOLUTION WOULD LET US GET THE MONEY TO THE GULF RIGHT AWAY. ANYBODY ELSE HAVE A CALCULATOR? YES?

REPORTER: I WOULD LIKE TO ASK MS. MCCARTHY AND THE ADMIRAL, WHAT IS THE STATE OF THE GULF TODAY? WE TALK A LOT ABOUT HOW MUCH IS BEING DONE. HOW MUCH DAMAGE IS STILL THERE? HOW WOULD YOU HAVE RESCUED IT?

ADMIRAL ZUKUNFT: THE LAST REPORT OF OIL WE HAD WAS BACK IN MARCH. THE TARGET THAT CAME ASHORE WE COULD MATCH TO CONDO 52 -- 252 OIL. TOURISM IS BACK LIKE NEVER BEFORE. FLORIDA, ALABAMA, MISSISSIPPI HAD BANNER YEARS FOR TOURISM. BUT WHAT HAS NOT RECOVERED ARE THESE WETLANDS, AS I ALLUDED TO EARLIER. WHICH IS GOING TO TAKE TIME. AND WHEN YOU LOOK AT THE ECOSYSTEMS THAT ARE DEPENDENT ON THOSE WETLANDS, SUSTAIN FISHERIES WELL INTO THE 21ST CENTURY, THAT WORK IS GOING TO BE ABSOLUTELY CRITICAL. MUCH WORK NOW NEEDS TO BE DONE ON THE RESTORE ASPECT OF THIS OIL SPILL, AND MUCH OF THE RESPONSE WORK IS IN FACT COMPLETE. IF OIL DOES, SURE, WE TAKE THOSE CALLS AND WE RESPOND AS WE DO TO ALL OIL SPILL'S IN THE UNITED STATES.

ADMINISTRATOR MCCARTHY: LET ME JUST ADD THE REASON YOU HAVE THE $8.1 BILLION IN RESTORATION FUNDS IS THERE IS A LOT OF WORK TO BE DONE. THERE'S ALSO AN ADDITIONAL $700 MILLION BUILT INTO THIS AGREEMENT SHOULD THERE BE ON FOR SEEN DAMAGES WE DID NOT ANTICIPATE THAT REQUIRE WORK. -- UNDER OR SEEN DAMAGES WE DID NOT ANTICIPATE THAT REQUIRE WORK.

SECRETARY VILSACK: ONE OF THE ASPECTS THAT MAY NOT BE UNDERSTOOD IS WHAT THIS WILL DO TO SPUR PEOPLE TO THINK DIFFERENTLY. WE KNOW THAT WE HAVE FARMERS AND PRODUCERS WHO ARE FAR MORE SENSITIVE TO WHAT THEY CAN DO WITH THEIR LAND, AND THIS RESOURCE WILL ENCOURAGE, I THINK, MORE CONSERVATION THAN WOULD HAVE OTHERWISE TAKEN PLACE. THERE IS NOT ONLY THE DIRECT IMPACT ON HOW THE OIL SPILL AFFECTED THE WETLANDS, BUT ALSO A POSITIVE IMPACT ON THE ECOSYSTEM THAT FEEDS INTO THOSE WETLANDS. I THINK YOU WILL SEE SIGNIFICANT INCREASES IN HABITAT. THAT IS IN TURN SUBSTANTIALLY INCREASING HUNTING, FISHING, AND THAT WILL TIE INTO THE ADMIRAL'S COMMENTS ABOUT TOURISM.

REPORTER: ON ANOTHER TOPIC, YOU AND ADMINISTRATOR MCCARTHY ARE WORKING ON ANOTHER HIGH PROFILE CASE IN THE VOLKSWAGEN VERDICT AND I'M WONDERING IF YOU AND THE ADMINISTRATOR COULD TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THIS INVESTIGATION. WHAT LEVEL OF COOPERATION YOU GUYS ARE GETTING FROM VOLKSWAGEN, AND WHETHER YOU WILL PURSUE CRIMINAL CHARGES AT THE MOMENT?

ATTORNEY GENERAL LYNCH: WHAT I CAN SAY, CERTAINLY, AND ADMINISTRATOR MCCARTHY CAN SPEAK ABOUT ACTIONS ALREADY TAKEN REGARDING VOLKSWAGEN, WHICH ARE PUBLIC. THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE IS WORKING CLOSELY WITH THE EPA TO REVIEW THESE LETTERS. WE WILL REVIEW ALL OF THE EVIDENCE, ALL OF THESE FACTS, AND PURSUE WHATEVER REMEDIES WE FIND AVAILABLE UNDER THE LAW. SINCE THIS IS SOMETHING WE ARE LOOKING AT NOW, I AM NOT ABLE TO GO INTO DETAILS, BUT IT IS SOMETHING WE TAKE VERY, VERY SERIOUSLY. DO YOU WANT TO ADD? AND THEN BEHIND YOU.

REPORTER: FOR THE RESTORATION PLAN, AND HOW SPECIFIC DOES THIS GET IN TELLING STATES HOW THEY WILL GO ABOUT RESTORING THESE WETLANDS? WILL WE SEE FURTHER INPUT FROM THEM ON THE FINE-GRAINED DETAILS? DOES THIS LAY IT ALL OUT?

ATTORNEY GENERAL LYNCH: I WOULD HOPE THAT PEOPLE GO TO THE WEBSITE AND LOOK AT THE RESTORATION PLAN. THE AGENCIES THAT ARE HERE AND ALL FIVE STATES ARE INVOLVED IN THAT AND WHILE THE RESTORATION PLAN TALKS ABOUT THE THINGS THAT WILL FOCUS ON IN PARTICULAR, WHETHER IT IS A CERTAIN TYPE OF MAMMAL OR FISH, IT DOES NOT DEFINE THESE SPECIFIC PROJECTS NOW, BECAUSE WE WANT EVERY STATE TO LOOK AT THE HARM THEY SUFFER AND COME UP WITH THE B EST PLAN, THE BEST WAYS OF SOLVING TO PARTICULAR ISSUES. THE PLAN DOES OUTLINE BROAD CATEGORIES AND WE EXPECT TO WORK VERY CLOSELY WITH THE RESTORATION COUNCIL, WHICH IS CHAIRED BY THE SECRETARY OF COMMERCE HERE -- I DON'T KNOW IF YOU WANT TO ADD TO THAT -- BUT WE ANTICIPATE THE STATES WILL BE VERY INVOLVED IN DECIDING THE ACTUAL WAYS TO RESPOND.

REPORTER: THANKS. THE FBI PUT A STATEMENT OUT YESTERDAY REGARDING ONLINE POSTS THAT WERE THREATENING PHILADELPHIA AREA COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES. I AM SEEKING YOUR COMMENT ON THAT. IS THE FBI MONITORING ANY SIMILAR ONLINE POSTS?

ATTORNEY GENERAL LYNCH: I AM GOING TO REFER YOU TO THE FBI'S STATEMENT FOR THAT. WHAT I WILL SAY, IN THIS TIME OF HEIGHTENED SENSITIVITY, WE ARE TAKING ALL STEPS NECESSARY AND APPROPRIATE TO MAKE SURE WE ARE AWARE OF THREATS NO MATTER HOW THEY MAY BE TRANSMITTED. I WOULD REFER YOU BACK TO THE FBI STATEMENT ON THAT.

REPORTER: YOU MENTIONED THE REQUIREMENTS FOR BP -- IS THAT PART OF THE SETTLEMENT WERE YOU DETAIL WHAT THE TRANSPARENCY REQUIREMENTS ARE?

ADMINISTRATOR MCCARTHY: AS YOU KNOW, THEY REQUIRE AND AGREEMENTS, THE CRIMINAL AGREEMENT AS WELL AS THE EPA AGREEMENT WITH BP, THAT WILL REINFORCE THIS PARTICULAR AGREEMENT BECAUSE IT DID SEEK TO BUILD TRANSPARENCY AND ACCOUNTABILITY MECHANISMS. IN PARTICULAR IT REQUIRES BP TO REPORT AND KEEP THAT ACCURATE ON A PUBLICLY ACCESSIBLE WEBSITE. SO, YOU WILL BE ABLE TO SEE YOURSELF WHAT KIND OF ACTIONS BP HAS INITIATED AND HOW IT IS COMPLYING WITH THE SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT. SO, THAT IS THE ULTIMATE OF TRANSPARENCY.

REPORTER: MAY I.S. HUGH ON ANOTHER SUBJECT AS WELL, GIVEN THE PRESIDENT'S -- MAY I ASK YOU ON ANOTHER SUBJECT AS WELL, GIVEN THE PRESIDENT'S COMMENT LAST WEEK ON MASS SHOOTINGS, IS THE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT LOOKING AT ANY POLICIES THE PRESIDENT COULD LOOK AT?

ATTORNEY GENERAL LYNCH: HIS STATEMENT WAS CLEAR AND STRONG THAT THIS IS A MATTER OF GRAVE CONCERN AND EVERYONE SHOULD BE FOCUSED ON HOW TO MAKE THE COUNTRY SAFER OVERALL. AS THE PRESIDENT INDICATED, WE ARE ALWAYS LOOKING AT WAYS WE CAN MAKE THE STRONGEST CASE IS POSSIBLE UNDER OUR EXISTING LAWS, AND CERTAINLY IT IS AN ONGOING DEBATE AND DISCUSSION. HARD TO SAY WHERE IT WILL END, BUT THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE LOOKS FORWARD TO WORK TO KEEP THE AMERICAN PEOPLE SAFE. AND BEHIND YOU.

REPORTER: [INDISCERNIBLE] HAS BEEN TIED UP IN LITIGATION. WILL THIS DRAFT LITIGATION LAYOUT, AND WILL THAT 8.1 BILLION DOLLARS, WITH A COVER THE DAMAGE THAT WE SEE HERE?

ADMINISTRATOR MCCARTHY: I CERTAINLY CAN LEAVE IT TO PENNY. I THINK ONE POINT THAT SHOULD BE MADE, THIS IS GOING OUT FOR PUBLIC COMMENT AND THERE IS A PUBLIC PROCESS. I ENCOURAGE EVERYONE TO BE ENGAGED IN THAT. ALSO THE RESTORATION COUNCIL IS VERY ROBUST IN TERMS OF HAVING EVERY STAKEHOLDER AT THE TABLE TO WORK THROUGH THESE ISSUES. THE RESTORATION PLAN DOES TAKE ACCOUNT OF WHAT WE BELIEVE TO BE THE IMPACTS ASSOCIATED WITH THIS SPILL, BUT ALSO KEEP IN MIND THAT BEYOND THE 8.1 BILLION DOLLARS, THE POTENTIAL $700 MILLION, THERE IS A SETTLEMENT WITH THE COMMUNITIES, AND ECONOMIC SETTLEMENT THAT HAS BEEN REACHED. THERE IS IN TOTAL ABOUT $30 BILLION THAT IS REALLY GOING TO BE FOCUSED ON THIS ISSUE I IN GETTING THE GULF THE KIND OF JUSTICE IT DESERVES.

ATTORNEY GENERAL LYNCH: YES?

REPORTER: I JUST WANTED TO SEE IF YOU HAD A BEAD ON WHAT IMPACT THE SETTLEMENT MAY HAVE HAD IN FUTURE OIL EXPLORATION IN THE GULF AND WHETHER THE SETTLEMENT HAD THE INTENT OF DISCOURAGING FURTHER PRODUCTION?

ATTORNEY GENERAL LYNCH: THE SETTLEMENT IS NOT DESIGNED TO DISCOURAGE ANY VALID ECONOMIC ACTIVITY IN THE GULF AND CERTAINLY THE OIL PRODUCTION IS A VALID AND VALUED PART OF THE AMERICAN ECONOMY. WHAT IT IS DESIGNED TO DO, HOWEVER, IS NOT ONLY TO COMPENSATE FOR DAMAGES TO PROVIDE A WAY FORWARD FOR THE HEALTH AND SAFETY OF THE GULF, BUT LET OTHER COMPANIES KNOW THEY ARE GOING TO BE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE HARM THAT OCCURS SHOULD ACCIDENTS LIKE THIS HAPPEN IN THE FUTURE. SO, WE HOPE THEY WILL LOOK AT THIS. WE HOPE THAT THEY WILL LOOK AT NOT ONLY BE SETTLEMENT, BUT ALSO THE STEPS EP HAS TAKEN IN TERMS OF TRANSPARENCY, AND TERMS OF CHANGES IN PROCEDURES, AND ENSURING THEY ARE OPERATING IN AS SAFE A MANNER AS POSSIBLE.

REPORTER: LAST WEEK IN AN INTERVIEW, YOU WERE ASKED WHY THERE WERE NOT RELIABLE NATIONAL FIGURES AND YOU SAID YOU DO NOT THINK THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE SHOULD BE DICTATING MINUTIA? DO YOU REALLY THINK THAT THEY ARE MINUTIA?

ATTORNEY GENERAL LYNCH: THEY ARE NOT MINUTIA AT ALL. THE DEPARTMENT AND ADMINISTRATION'S POSITION IS WE NEED TO HAVE NATIONAL DATA ON EXCESSIVE FORCE AND OFFICER INVOLVED SHOOTINGS. THIS IS USEFUL BECAUSE IT HELPS US SEE TRENDS, IT HELPS US REMOTE TRANSPARENCY AND ACCOUNTABILITY. THE POINT I WAS TRYING TO MAKE OF THAT CONFERENCE RELATED TO OUR OVERALL VIEW OF HOW WE DEAL WITH POLICE DEPARTMENTS AS PART OF OUR PRACTICE OF AND FORCING EITHER CONSENT DECREES OR WORKING WITH THEM AND I WAS TRYING TO MAKE THE POINT THAT WE ALSO HAVE TO FOCUS ON BUILDING COMMUNITY TRUST HIM OF WHICH IS A VERY INDIVIDUAL, VERY LOCAL PRACTICE. UNFORTUNATELY MY COMMENTS GAPING MISPERCEPTION WE WERE CHANGING OUR VIEW IN SOME WAY ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF THIS DATA. NOTHING COULD BE FURTHER FROM THE TRUTH. THIS THAT -- THIS DATA IS NOT ONLY VITAL, WE ARE WORKING CLOSELY TO DEVELOP NATIONAL CONSISTENT STANDARDS FOR THIS KIND OF INFORMATION.

REPORTER: SHOULD THE DEPARTMENT BE COMPELLED TO PROVIDE THIS DATA?

ATTORNEY GENERAL LYNCH: WE DO REQUIRE IT WHEN WE HAVE CONSENT DECREES WITH DEPARTMENTS AND FRANKLY, WE FIND IT VERY, VERY USEFUL AS WE LOOK AT DATA AND TRENDS. WE ENCOURAGE OTHER DEPARTMENTS TO DO SO. AND FRANKLY, OTHER POLICE DEPARTMENT'S ARE FINDING IT USEFUL. THE FACT THAT WE DO NOT HAVE A NATIONWIDE, CONSISTENT SET OF STANDARDS NOT ONLY MAKES OUR JOB DIFFICULT, IT MAKES IT HARD TO SEE THESE TRENDS. THAT IS WHITE IS SO IMPORTANT TO FOCUS ON THESE. THIS IS WHY WE ARE WORKING WITH THE DEPARTMENT'S RESEARCH ARM, WORKING WITH THE LEADING POLICE ASSOCIATIONS -- MAJOR CITY CHIEFS, MAJOR COUNTY SHERIFF'S -- TO LOOK AT THESE STANDARDS. WE ARE GOING FURTHER PUBLISHING INFORMATION ABOUT DEATHS IN CUSTODY AS WELL. TRANSPARENCY AND ACCOUNTABILITY ARE HELPED BY THIS KIND OF NATIONAL DATA.

>> LAST QUESTION.

REPORTER: THERE HAS BEEN A CONSISTENT STREAM OF INFORMATION LEAKING OUT ABOUT THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE ABOUT HILLARY CLINTON'S E-MAIL STORAGE. ARE YOU CONCERNED ABOUT THESE LEAKS? WHAT YOU DOING TO PREVENT ANY MORE INFORMATION GETTING OUT?

ATTORNEY GENERAL LYNCH: I THINK LEAKS ARE DETRIMENTAL TO ANY MATTER, NO MATTER WHAT IT IS, NO MATTER WHO IS INVOLVED. EVERYONE ONCE MATTERS INVESTIGATED THE WAY THE APARTMENT DOES -- THOROUGHLY, EFFICIENTLY. BEYOND THAT I AM NOT ABLE TO COMMENT ON THE SPECIFICS OF THE MATTER. THANK YOU.

DOJ press conference on BP settlement

 Posted by on October 5, 2015
Oct 052015
 

Press release (text below)  |  For consent decree, go here

Download BP Fact Sheet

Download Restoration Plan Fact Sheet

U.S. and Five Gulf States Reach Historic Settlement with BP to Resolve Civil Lawsuit Over Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

Total Value of Global Settlement Will Top $20 Billion Largest with a Single Entity in Justice Department History Assures Continued Restoration of the Gulf Coast

The United States today joins the five Gulf states in announcing a  settlement to resolve civil claims against BP arising from the April 20, 2010 Macondo well blowout and the massive oil spill that followed in the Gulf of Mexico.

This global settlement resolves the governments’ civil claims under the Clean Water Act and natural resources damage claims under the Oil Pollution Act, as well as economic damage claims of the five Gulf states and local governments.  Taken together this global resolution of civil claims is worth $20.8 billion, and is the largest settlement with a single entity in the department’s history.

Also today, consistent with the settlement, the Deepwater Horizon Trustees Council, made up of representatives of the five Gulf states and four federal agencies, has published a draft damage assessment and restoration plan and a draft environmental impact statement.  The plan includes a comprehensive assessment of natural resource injuries resulting from the oil spill and provides a detailed framework for how the trustees will use the natural resource damage recoveries from BP to restore the Gulf environment.

“Building on prior actions against BP and its subsidiaries by the Department of Justice, this historic resolution is a strong and fitting response to the worst environmental disaster in American history,” said Attorney General Loretta Lynch.  “BP is receiving the punishment it deserves, while also providing critical compensation for the injuries it caused to the environment and the economy of the Gulf region.  I am proud that the Department of Justice has helped lead the way from tragedy to opportunity, and I am confident that our actions today will help to ensure that Gulf communities emerge from this disaster stronger and more resilient than ever before.”

“Five years after one of the worst environmental disasters in our nation's history, which claimed 11 lives and caused untold damage, we have reached a historic milestone with today's settlement,” said Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker.  “With this settlement, federal, state and local governments and the Gulf coast communities will have the resources to make significant progress toward restoring ecosystems, economies, and businesses of the region.  We are committed to ensuring the Gulf Coast comes back stronger and more vibrant than before the disaster.  If made final, the settlement will provide the U.S. and Gulf states with the resources and certainty needed for effective restoration planning and improvements.”

“This agreement brings renewed hope for a fully restored Gulf of Mexico to millions of Americans who value the Gulf for its contributions to our economy, our environment and plentiful recreational opportunities,” said Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.  “Today’s settlement is a significant step in restoring the natural resources that were impacted by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and a breakthrough for building back the resilience of this region. The Trustees will continue to work with people along the coast to ensure they have every opportunity to be engaged in these meaningful recovery and restoration efforts that will generate jobs, improve water quality, support our tribal responsibilities and result in an improved wildlife habitat for migratory birds and hundreds of vulnerable species.”

“Through this historic settlement, USDA will continue working with rural communities, landowners and other partners to conserve watersheds and working lands,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.  “This work will benefit the Gulf of Mexico and its associated natural resources as well as help local economies that were damaged by the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.”

“Today is a day of justice for every family and every Gulf community whose health, land, water, and livelihoods were threatened by the Deepwater Horizon disaster,” said Administrator Gina McCarthy of EPA.  “This settlement puts billions of dollars to work to help restore the Gulf, and holds BP publically accountable for changes to its practices, to prevent this kind of disaster from happening again.”

“Today’s settlement ensures that BP repays the Government for its costs in responding to the Deepwater Horizon tragedy,” said Admiral Paul Zukunft of the U.S. Coast Guard Commandant. “The historic civil penalty also sends a clear message of accountability for those who pollute the U.S. environment.  In addition, this settlement is a positive step toward restoring our Gulf Coast to health and to ensure that it remains a national centerpiece for economic prosperity, a place of recreation and, most importantly, a pristine home to the generations of Americans who work and reside along its bays, rivers and estuaries.”

On April 10, 2010, less than 50 miles off the coast of Louisiana, the Macondo well suffered a catastrophic blowout.  The ensuing explosion and fire destroyed the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, killing 11 men aboard and sending more than three million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico over a period of nearly three months.  Oil flowed within deep ocean water currents hundreds of miles away from the blown-out well, resulting in oil slicks that extended across more than 43,000 square miles, affecting water quality and exposing aquatic plants and wildlife to harmful chemicals.  Oil was deposited onto at least 400 square miles of the sea floor and washed up onto more than 1,300 miles of shoreline from Texas to Florida.

The spill damaged and temporarily closed fisheries vital to the Gulf economy, oiled hundreds of miles of beaches, coastal wetlands and marshes and killed thousands of birds and other marine wildlife, among other economic and natural resource injuries.

On Dec. 15, 2010, Attorney General Eric Holder announced a civil lawsuit against BP and several co-defendants, seeking to hold them accountable for the Deepwater Horizon disaster.  The federal lawsuit culminated in a three-phase civil trial in which the United States proved, among other things, that the spill was caused by BP’s gross negligence.

Each of the Gulf States – Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas – also filed civil claims against BP relating to the spill, including claims for economic losses and natural resource damages.

Under the terms of a consent decree lodged in federal court in New Orleans this morning, BP must pay the following:

  • $5.5 billion federal Clean Water Act penalty, plus interest, 80 percent of which will go to restoration efforts in the Gulf region pursuant to a Deepwater-specific statute, the RESTORE Act. This is the largest civil penalty in the history of environmental law.
  • $8.1 billion in natural resource damages, this includes $1 billion BP already committed to pay for early restoration, for joint use by the federal and state trustees in restoring injured resources. BP will also pay up to an additional $700 million, some of which is in the form of accrued interest, specifically to address any later-discovered natural resource conditions that were unknown at the time of the agreement and to assist in adaptive management needs.  The natural resource damages money will fund Gulf restoration projects that will be selected by the federal and state trustees to meet five different restoration goals and 13 restoration project categories.  These include restoration focusing on supporting habitats such as coastal wetlands, but also provide for specific resource types, such as marine mammals, fish and water column invertebrates, sturgeon, submerged aquatic vegetation, oysters, sea turtles, birds and lost recreational use, among others.
  • $600 million for other claims, including claims for reimbursement of federal and state natural resource damage assessment costs and other unreimbursed federal expenses and to resolve a False Claims Act investigation due to this incident.

The payments will be made over time and are backed by parent company guarantees from BP Corporation North America Inc. and BP P.L.C.

Additionally, BP has entered into separate agreements to pay $4.9 billion to the five Gulf states and up to a total of $1 billion to several hundred local governmental bodies to settle claims for economic damages they have suffered as a result of the spill.

Notice of both the consent decree and the draft damage assessment and restoration plan are published in the federal register.  Both will be available for public comment for 60 days.  The materials and instructions for commenting on the consent decree can be found at http://www.justice.gov/enrd/deepwater-horizon.  The materials and instructions for commenting on the draft damage assessment and restoration plan and draft environmental impact statement can be found at www.gulfspillrestoration.noaa.gov.  A series of public meetings will be held in the Gulf region and Washington, D.C. to solicit comments on the proposed consent decree and the draft restoration plan.

Earlier settlements:

The settlements announced today are in addition to several earlier criminal and civil settlements of federal government claims concerning the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

First, on Feb. 17, 2012, MOEX Offshore 2007 LLC, which had a 10 percent stake in the well, agreed to settle its liability for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in a settlement with the United States valued at $90 million.  Approximately $45 million of the $90 million settlement was dedicated to directly benefit the Gulf  in the form of penalties, as well as coastal and habitat protection projects.

On Jan. 29, 2013, BP Exploration and Production Inc. pleaded guilty to illegal conduct leading to and after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, and was sentenced to pay $4 billion in criminal fines, penalties and restitution, including $2.4 billion for natural resource restoration.

On Feb. 14, 2013, Transocean Deepwater Inc., the Deepwater Horizon’s owner and operator, pleaded guilty to violating the Clean Water Act and was sentenced to pay $400 million in criminal fines and penalties, for its conduct in relation to the disaster.  A separate civil settlement imposed a record $1 billion Clean Water Act penalty on Transocean and required the company to take significant measures to improve its performance and prevent recurrence of this conduct.

Oct 052015
 

From the Federal Register's Public Inspection section:

FWS finds listing of Sonoran desert tortoise "not warranted."   "Most simply and qualitatively, the best available data does not show that any one or more risk factors are likely to result in meaningful population declines in the foreseeable future." (see below for press release from WildEarth Guardians)

FWS lists Trichomanes punctatum ssp. floridanum (Florida bristle fern), a plant subspecies from Miami-Dade and Sumter Counties, Florida, as endangered.

FWS lists black pinesnake, a reptile subspecies from Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi, as a threatened species.

FWS proposes to list the Suwannee moccasinshell (Medionidus walkeri), a freshwater mussel species from the Suwannee River Basin in Florida and Georgia, as a threatened species.

WildEarth Guardians press release on Sonoran desert tortoise decision

For immediate release

Oct. 5, 2015

Contact: Taylor Jones, (720) 443-2615, tjones@wildearthguardians.org

Feds Deny Desert Tortoises Endangered Species Act Safeguards

Despite looming threats, imperiled tortoises will not receive legal protections

Washington, D.C. (Oct. 5, 2015)—Today the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) declared Morafka’s desert tortoises “not warranted” for Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections despite looming threats from climate change and drought. The finding comes in response to a 2008 petition to list the species by WildEarth Guardians and the Western Watersheds Project. The decision was due by the end of September as part of a groundbreaking legal settlement between Guardians and the Service, which works to resolve the large backlog of imperiled species awaiting protection.

“The Service’s new motto seems to be giving the benefit of the doubt to extractive industries and unenforceable conservation agreements, rather than to imperiled species. We’ll be looking closely at this decision to make sure that’s not the case for the desert tortoise,” said Taylor Jones, endangered species advocate for WildEarth Guardians.

Desert tortoises in the Mojave Desert have enjoyed ESA protections since 1990, but desert tortoises in the Sonoran Desert have yet to receive ESA protections. Scientists recently determined that these two populations are actually two different species: Morafka’s desert tortoise (Gopherus morafkai) in the Sonoran, and Agassiz’s desert tortoise (G. agassizii) in the Mojave. Tortoises are well-adapted to desert life; they meet most of their water needs through the grasses, annual wildflowers, and cacti they eat, and spend almost 95 percent of their lives in cool, sheltered burrows excavated under rocks and shrubs.

The Service made Morafka’s desert tortoise a candidate for ESA protection in 2010, due to threats including urban development, off-road vehicles (ORV), roads, illegal collecting for the pet trade, and climate change. The Southwest is already feeling acute impacts of climate change and prolonged drought.

“It’s unclear whether the Service adequately considered the impacts of threats like grazing and ORV use on our public lands, especially combined with drought and climate change,” said Jones. “And while it is important to acknowledge uncertainty regarding climate change impacts, the Service has a disturbing history of using small amounts of uncertainty to deny needed protections to species facing clear threats.”

Protection under the ESA is an effective safety net for imperiled species: more than 99 percent of plants and animals protected by the law exist today. The law is especially important as a defense against the current extinction crisis; species are disappearing at a rate much higher than the natural rate of extinction due to human activities. Scientists estimate that 227 species would have gone extinct if not for ESA protections. Without ESA protections, desert tortoises are in greater danger of extinction.

Oct 022015
 

Progress and Problems: Government Scientists Report on Scientific Integrity
at Four Agencies
reveals results of survey of 7,000 scientists

NOAA numbers not as bad, but concern remains

Politics plays too big a role in decisionmaking at the Fish and Wildlife Service, a new survey from the Union of Concerned Scientists concludes. | Download the full report

"Many scientists felt that too much consideration was given to political interests at their agencies," said the report, based on surveys of employees at four different agencies: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Food and Drug Administration, FWS and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

"This was particularly true at the FWS, where 73 percent of respondents reported the level of consideration of political interests was 'too high', " the report said. "FWS respondents also noted that interference can come from the legacy of previous administrations affecting current work."

"One [FWS] respondent noted, 'Ultimately, the USFWS would be improved the most if we could make decisions based solely on the science, instead of having to balance those decisions with politics.' Another respondent inferred the motive accounting for such political influence:

“It is my perception that upper-level managers are influenced by fear of Congress dismantling the Endangered Species Act and/or otherwise interfering with the mission of the service. This affects their ability to appropriately support the scientific integrity of the very conscientious scientific staff whose work is supposed to support the managers’ decision making.”

Regarding NOAA, the report said, "Compared with 2005, when UCS surveyed scientists working at NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), the agency appears to have vastly improved in terms of perceived agency effectiveness and adherence to scientific integrity principles. Aside from these improvements, some issues remain, including barriers to scientists publishing their work and communicating to the media and public. NOAA scientists also indicated that the overuse of contractors was having a negative impact on agency morale and productivity."

Also from the report:

"Similar to other agencies, NOAA scientists reported too much weight being given to political interests (56 percent, 973 respondents). When asked what could improve scientific integrity at NOAA, several scientists focused on ways the agency should address this issue. One respondent wrote, 'Remove all political agendas and influence by those without expertise in a designated field of study.' Another respondent wrote, 'Stop giving in to political and industry pressure when making scientific decisions!' Another put it this way: 'No single entity unduly influences the agency but the combination of NGOs, industry, Congress, OMB, and Commerce results in watering and wearing down and splintering of the agency’s efforts.' "

Gretchen Goldman, lead analyst for UCS's Center for Science and Democracy, said that "the new survey results offer a treasure trove of information." From the results, she concluded that "scientific integrity has certainly improved in recent years but much work is still needed to fully implement the relatively new scientific integrity policies and change agency cultures.

"For example, a significant number of scientists are still unaware that their agency has a scientific integrity policy, despite the policies being in place for three years (1,489 respondents across agencies). Of those that were aware, some respondents didn’t think their agency adhered to the policy (227 respondents across agencies). These results suggest we have more work to do."

According to the report, "Of respondents who reported awareness of the scientific integrity policy, 50 to 66 percent believed their agencies adhere to this policy, with 66 percent of CDC scientists (643 respondents) at the high end and 50 percent of FWS scientists (345 respondents) at the low end."

Sep 302015
 

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals has released the audio of the oral arguments that took place on Monday in People for the Ethical Treatment of Property Owners v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (14-4151). The government is appealing a district court decision that found FWS's take regulations for the Utah prairie dog ran afoul of the Commerce Clause.

For briefs filed in the case, see Pacific Legal Foundation's web site   (click "Documents" on the left)

Editor's note: I want to personally thank the Tenth Circuit Clerk's office for responding promptly to my request for the audio file.

Sep 302015
 

Go here to watch House hearing

Oversight Hearing on:
  • "Respecting State Authority, Responsibilities and Expertise Regarding Resource Management and Energy Development"
  • Hearing Memo
Member Statements:

The Honorable Rob Bishop
Chairman

Witnesses and Testimony:

The Honorable Steve Bullock
Governor, State of Montana
(Disclosure Form)

The Honorable Dennis Daugaard
Governor, State of South Dakota
(Disclosure Form)

The Honorable Gary Herbert
Governor, State of Utah
(Disclosure Form)

The Honorable Matt Mead
Governor, State of Wyoming
(Disclosure Form)

Related Documents:

Senate EPW subcommittee hearing (audio from CapitolHearings.org)

Webcast here

Files

 

Sep 292015
 

The Fish and Wildlife Service will propose listing 49 plants and animals from the Hawaiian islands as endangered, and the Eastern Massasauga rattlesnake, known from 10 states, and the elfin-woods warbler, a bird species in Puerto Rico, as threatened. (links go to more info.)

The proposals are in three separate notices to be published Wednesday, Sept. 30. A table with the Hawaiian species is below. More on the rattlesnake is at http://www.fws.gov/midwest/Endangered/. FWS did not propose critical habitat for the rattlesnake.

Michigan DNR page on rattlesnake

Click on the pic to go to the snake's own web page

"The historical range documented for eastern massasauga rattlesnakes included western New York, western Pennsylvania, the lower peninsula and on Bois Blanc Island in Michigan, the northern two-thirds of Ohio and Indiana, the northern three-quarters of Illinois, the southern half of Wisconsin, extreme southeast Minnesota, east-central Missouri, the eastern third of Iowa, and far southwestern Ontario, Canada," FWS said in the proposed rule.

FWS said the current range "still reflects this distribution," but it is more restricted than in 1999, when the eastern massasauga rattlesnake was first identified as a candidate species, "because populations in central and western Missouri have since been reclassified as western massasauga rattlesnakes."

The Hawaiian species include 39 plants and 10 animals. Of the second group, seven are bees.

Sep 292015
 

The D.C. Circuit Court Appeals has upheld the federal government's approval of Enbridge Pipelines' Flanagan South pipeline, concluding that NEPA review of the pipeline's entire 593-mile length was not required (Sierra Club v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 14-5205).

The 593-mile pipeline, which has been built, carries crude oil from Illinois to Oklahoma. Sierra Club contended that collectively, the environmental reviews required by various federal agencies should have triggered an analysis of the entire pipeline under the National Environmental Policy Act.

However, the court, while saying that "the agencies were required to conduct NEPA analysis of the foreseeable direct and indirect effects of those regulatory actions," concluded that they "were not obligated also to analyze the impact of
the construction and operation of the entire pipeline." It continued:

"We also reject Sierra Club’s Clean Water Act challenge to the Corps’s verifications of Flanagan South’s water crossings under Nationwide Permit 12 because the Corps was authorized to  conduct its review on a regional rather than nationwide basis, and the Corps’s District Managers adequately supported their verification decisions. Finally, we hold that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Sierra Club’s motion to supplement and amend its complaint, because the proposed new allegations would not have affected the dispositive legal analysis."

The circuit judges on the decision were Janice Rogers Brown, Nina Pillard and Robert Wilkins. Pillard wrote the opinion for the court; Brown concurred separately, opining that the majority had expended too much "angst" in reaching its decision.

"While the majority ultimately arrives at the same destination, its route is needlessly circuitous, creating the impression that Sierra Club’s challenges fail by a hairsbreadth rather than a hectare," she said.

Background

Sierra Club also claimed that one of the agencies, the United States Army Corps of Engineers, unlawfully authorized dredge and fill activities at the pipeline’s nearly two thousand minor water crossings by verifying that they fell within the authority of a general permit, Nationwide Permit 12, that the Corps had promulgated under the Clean Water Act. Sierra Club argued that the Corps impermissibly conducted its analyses of the water crossings’ cumulative impacts by region, rather than considering the pipeline as a whole, and that its conclusions that the crossings would have only minimal adverse environmental effects were inadequately supported and conclusory.

The Flanagan South oil pipeline pumps crude oil across 593 miles of American heartland from Illinois to Oklahoma. Almost all of the land over which it passes is privately owned. As soon as Enbridge Pipelines (FSP), LLC, (Enbridge) began building the pipeline in 2013, the Sierra Club, a national environmental nonprofit organization, sued the federal government seeking to set aside several federal agencies’ regulatory approvals relating to the pipeline and to enjoin the pipeline’s construction and operation in reliance on any such approvals.

On appeal, Sierra Club principally contends that the district court erred by failing to require the agencies to analyze and invite public comment on the environmental impact of the whole pipeline under NEPA, including the lengthy portions crossing private land and not otherwise subject to federal approvals. Sierra Club also presses its challenge to the Corps’s Clean Water Act verifications of the pipeline’s many water crossings. Sierra Club further contends that the district court reversibly erred by failing to allow the organization to supplement and amend its complaint. Sierra Club’s proposed new complaint added claims that the Corps and the Bureau of Indian Affairs within the U.S. Department of the Interior (the Bureau) had, while the litigation was pending, completed separate NEPA analyses relating to each of the easements the agencies had granted for the pipeline to cross federally controlled land, and that those analyses were insufficient.