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.

Jun 162015
 

Addendum: The Senate Appropriations Committee's Interior and Environment Subcommittee followed suit by approving its own spending bill, which also prohibits spending to implement the WOTUS rule.

June 16 - The House Appropriations Committee approved a spending bill for the Interior Department and EPA that includes riders targeting the possible proposed listing of the greater sage-grouse, directing that the gray wolf in Wyoming and the Great Lakes be delisted once again, and prohibiting EPA from implementing its newly promulgated "waters of the U.S." rule.

The committee rejected amendments to strip the bill of those riders and others that have been criticized by the Obama Administration and environmental groups, including one addressing the listing of the northern long-eared bat. In addition, the committee adopted an amendment directing FWS to complete a five-year review of the Delta smelt.

Here's a list of amendments that did pass the committee, as provided in a press release issued today:

Rep. Calvert – The Manager’s amendment makes technical and non-controversial changes to the bill and report. The amendment was adopted on a voice vote.

Rep. Visclosky –The amendment changes bill language requiring that all iron and steel used in water infrastructure projects be sourced within the United States. The amendment was adopted on a voice vote.

Rep. Amodei – The amendment adds report language clarifying the process for products to be designated as “made in America.” The amendment was adopted on a voice vote.

Rep. Jenkins – The amendment prohibits funding for the EPA to implement or administer updates to existing ozone regulations. The amendment was adopted on a vote of 31-20.

Rep. Cole – The amendment prohibits funding to implement, administer, or enforce a final rule titled "Hydraulic Fracturing on Federal and Indian Lands." The amendment was adopted on a voice vote.

Rep. Valadao – The amendment adds report language relating to the Delta Smelt and directs the Fish and Wildlife Service to complete a five-year status review of the species, as required by law. The amendment was adopted on a voice vote. 

Jun 152015
 

Press Release from the Southern Environmental Law Center

For Immediate Release: June 15, 2015

Contact:

Bill Sapp, Southern Environmental Law Center, 404-521-9900, bsapp@selcga.org
Chris Manganiello, Georgia River Network, 706-549-4508, chris@garivers.org
Jenny Hoffner, American Rivers, 404-373-3602, jhoffner@americanrivers.org

GA Supreme Court Defers to EPD;
Buffer Protection for Freshwater Wetlands Not Required

Atlanta, GA—The Georgia Supreme Court today ruled in favor of the Environmental Protection Division (EPD) after the agency appealed a state court of appeals' decision that the Georgia Erosion & Sedimentation Act’s 25-foot water quality buffer provision applies to all state waters.

The Southern Environmental Law Center, representing Georgia River Network and American Rivers, was successful in overruling EPD’s policy that only some state waters are protected by buffers through a favorable decision from the Georgia Court of Appeals in July 2014. The decision also invalidated EPD Director Judson Turner’s April 2014 memorandum that stripped the protective buffer from the Georgia Coast.

After Director Turner ordered local issuing authorities to disregard the Georgia Court of Appeals’ decision, EPD appealed the appellate court’s decision and prevailed in state Supreme Court.

“A small strip of trees and plants may seem inconsequential, but that buffer provides a critical filter to prevent sediment and pollution from clogging our waters,” said Bill Sapp from the Southern Environmental Law Center. “We are disappointed with the decision, but regardless of today’s outcome, we will continue our work to restore protective measures and ensure that Georgia’s waterways are more swimmable and drinkable for the communities and industries that rely on clean water statewide.”

“It is fortunate that the 25-foot protective buffer has been restored along Georgia’s coastal marshes through the bill passed in the recent legislative session, which successfully closed large statutory loopholes that would have left our coast at risk,” said Chris Manganiello from Georgia River Network. “We will continue to work toward restoring the same protections for freshwater wetlands, and for all other waters across the state that are not currently protected.”

“Adopting consistent measures in order to keep invaluable rivers, streams, and marshlands clean and safe is in the best interest of all Georgians,” said Jenny Hoffner from American Rivers. “We remain hopeful that EPD will end its haphazard approach to how it applies buffers and instead implement a uniform method for protecting Georgia’s waters.”

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Jun 152015
 

For more Federal Register notices on the ESA and National Environmental Policy Act, go to http://www.eswr.com/fr-today

The Fish and Wildlife Service has begun a "scoping period" on an Environmental Impact Statement that will examine a plan to issue Incidental Take Permits under a Midwest Wind Energy MultiSpecies Habitat Conservation Plan that is being prepared. The Federal Register notice was published Friday, June 12.

FWS and planning partners are preparing the MSHCP. The partners include the conservation agencies for seven of eight Midwestern states within the Plan Area, the American Wind Energy Association (a consortium of wind energy companies), and The Conservation Fund.

"The MSHCP Plan Area encompasses all lands within the political boundary of Region 3 of the service, which includes eight states: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin."

http://www.midwestwindenergyhcpeis.org   More information here

"The MSHCP would cover eight species that are subject to injury or mortality at wind turbine facilities, including six federally listed species and two unlisted species. The six federally listed species covered under the MSHCP include: Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis), northern long-eared bat (Myotis septentrionalis), Kirtland’s warbler (Dendroica kirtlandii), piping plover (Charadrius melodius) (Great Lakes population and northern Great Plains population, which are two distinct population segments), and interior least tern (Sternula antillarum athalassos). The unlisted species included in the MSHCP are little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus) and bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus). Species may be added or deleted as the MSHCP is developed based on further analysis, new information, agency consultation, and public comment."

Public meetings, as well as a webinar, are scheduled in July.

More Federal Register notices are below

Public Inspection

FWS will prepare an EA or EIS on an application from Praxair Inc. for a right-of-way (ROW) permit to build, operate, and maintain two pipelines within an existing maintained pipeline corridor crossing the Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in Brazoria County, Texas. Scoping process begins.

EPA Regions 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 issue final 2015 National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) general permit for stormwater discharges from industrial activity, also referred to as the Multi-Sector General Permit (MSGP). | March 12 final rule

Forest Service will prepare an EIS for a project called Ringo, centered around Ringo Butte south of Wickiup Reservoir on the Crescent Ranger District in Oregon. Proposed action includes about 6,688 acres of thinning. "In order to continue to provide these values and services on the landscape into the future, there is a need to reduce tree density and surface fuels in order to restore and maintain a resilient, fire-adapted ecosystem."

The Commander of the Northwestern Division of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers solicits applications to fill vacant stakeholder representative member positions on the Missouri River Recovery Implementation Committee (MRRIC). Members are sought to fill vacancies on a committee to represent various categories of interests within the Missouri River basin. | MRRIC

NMFS issues Incidental Harassment Authorization (IHA) to BLM to take marine mammals, by harassment incidental to conducting a one-day field-based land survey of cultural sites located on a small island within the eastern Aleutian Islands archipelago, Alaska, June through July, 2015.

NMFS issues Incidental Harassment Authorization to Shell Gulf of Mexico Inc. to take marine mammals, by harassment, incidental to ice overflight surveys in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas, Alaska.

NMFS: Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADFG), Division of Wildlife Conservation, Juneau, AK (Principal Investigator: Lori Quakenbush) has been issued a minor amendment to Scientific Research Permit No. 14610-03

FERC will prepare an EA on impacts of the Susquehanna West Project involving construction and operation of facilities by Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company, L.L.C. (TGP) in Tioga and Bradford
Counties, Pennsylvania

Dates link to FR Tables of Contents

Monday, June 15, 2015

Low-effect HCPs, Florida (sand skink, Florida scrub-jay): FWS receives three applications for incidental take permits (ITPs) associated with low-effect HCPs. DCS Capital Investments I, LLC requests a 15-year ITP; Preferred Materials, Inc., doing business as Conrad Yelvington Distributors, requests a 3-year ITP; and Wickham Summerbrook, LLC requests a 5-year ITP

FWS releases Draft Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) and Environmental Assessment (EA) for the Butte Sink, Willow Creek-Lurline, and North Central Valley Wildlife Management Areas

NOAA says March 12, 2015, final rule, which expanded Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary from approximately 1,282 square miles (968 square nautical miles) to approximately 3,295 square miles (2,488 square nautical miles), became effective on June 9, 2015. NOAA has also changed the name of Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary to Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary.

BuRec and the California Department of Water Resources will prepare a partially Recirculated Draft Environmental Impact Report/Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement (RDEIR/SDEIS) on the Draft Bay Delta Conservation Plan and Natural Community Conservation Plan. "The RDEIR/SDEIS will describe and analyze refinement of the resource area analyses, alternatives, and actions, including additional alternatives that describe conveyance alternatives that do not contain all the elements of a Habitat Conservation Plan/Natural Communities Conservation Plan that are described in the previously circulated Draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS)."

Friday, June 12, 2015

EPA receives agency EIS's for review

NMFS issues revised Incidental Harassment Authorization (IHA) to The Narragansett Electric Company, doing business as National Grid (TNEC), to take marine mammals, by harassment, incidental to construction of the Block Island Transmission System (BITS).

Wind energy: FWS receives application from Na Pua Makani Power Partners, LLC for an incidental take permit  authorizing take of one threatened and six endangered species | Documents should be here

FWS receives permit applications to import endangered species, marine mammals (zoos, trophies)

Forest Service to prepare an EA to establish management direction for the land and resources within San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, designated by Presidential Proclamation on Oct. 10, 2014

Enbridge spill: DOI, acting through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS); the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi Tribe; and the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of the Pottawatomi Indians has written a Draft Damage Assessment and Restoration Plan and Environmental Assessment, which describes proposed alternatives for restoring injured natural resources and compensating for losses resulting from the discharges of oil from Enbridge’s Line 6B oil pipeline near Marshall, Michigan, in July 2010.

Enforcement: Oil Pollution Act consent decree (Enbridge spill)

BLM Salt Lake Field Office begins scoping process for Resource Management Plan (RMP)
Amendment with an associated Environmental Assessment (EA) for target shooting in
the Eastern Lake Mountains area.

BLM issues Record of Decision (ROD) for the Approved Resource Management Plan (RMP) for
the John Day Basin planning area located in northern central Oregon  ::   More here

Commodity Credit Corporation will prepare a PEIS for the Biomass Crop Assistance Program

FERC releases DEIS, announces public hearings for the proposed New England Clean Power Link
(NECPL) Transmission Line   ::  New England Clean Power Link page

FAA will prepare EIS for proposed improvements to the Norfolk International Airport

Jun 102015
 

The House Appropriations Committee's Interior/Environment subcommittee has approved a funding bill for FY 2016 that slashes spending for EPA by $718 million from the current year, delays issuing a proposed listing of the greater sage-grouse -- a long-shot to earn an ESA proposal in any case -- and nixes EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers' "waters of the U.S." rule.

The bill also would remove gray wolves in Wyoming and the Great Lakes from the endangered species list and loosen restrictions on ivory possession and shipments within the United States.

Go here for yesterday's post on the bill, with links to the text and excerpts of most of the environmental "riders."

No amendments were offered at the subcommittee markup. Usually, amendments are offered at the full committee markup, and historically -- when they are offered by Democrats who are trying to eliminate environmental riders -- they have been defeated on party-line votes.

Statements

Ken Calvert (R-Calif.)., chairman of subcommittee

Harold Rogers (R-Ky.), chairman of Appropriations Committee

Jun 092015
 

WOTUS rule also targeted

The House Appropriations Committee's proposed spending bill for the Department of the Interior would remove gray wolves in Wyoming and the Great Lakes from the list of threatened and endangered species.

The bill also would delay for a year any decision on listing of the greater sage-grouse by prohibiting the spending of any money on a proposal for the bird. Presumably, however, the Fish and Wildlife Service could continue to work on the matter.

The committee issued a press release this morning. The full text of the bill is here.

The Center for Biological Diversity was quick to criticize the bill. Brett Hartl, CBD's endangered species policy director, called it "another cynical attack on science and the Endangered Species Act that will result in wolves being mindlessly slaughtered in the few places where they have begun to recover."

Here is the text of some riders in the bill:

SAGE-GROUSE

SEC. 117. None of the funds made available by this or any other Act may be used by the Secretary of the Interior to write or issue pursuant to section 4 of the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (16 U.S.C. 1533)—

(1) a proposed rule for greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus);

(2) a proposed rule for the Columbia basin distinct population segment of greater sage-grouse.

IVORY

SEC. 120. None of the funds made available by this or any other Act may be used to draft, prepare, implement, or enforce any new or revised regulation or order that—

(1) prohibits or restricts, within the United States, the possession, sale, delivery, receipt, shipment, or transportation of ivory that has been lawfully imported into the United States;

(2) changes any means of determining, including any applicable presumptions concerning, when ivory has been lawfully imported; or

(3) prohibits or restricts the importation of ivory that was lawfully importable into the United States as of February 1, 2014.

REISSUANCE OF FINAL RULES [GRAY WOLF]

SEC. 121. Before the end of the 60-day period beginning on the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of the Interior shall reissue the final rule published on December 28, 2011 (76 Fed. Reg. 81666 et seq.) and the final rule published on September 10, 2012 (77 Fed. Reg. 55530 et seq.), without regard to any other provision of statute or regulation that applies to issuance of such rules. Such reissuances (including this section) shall not be subject to judicial review.

NORTHERN LONG-EARED BAT

SEC. 122. Before the end of the 60-day period beginning on the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of the Interior shall amend the interim rule pertaining to the northern long-eared bat published by the Department of the Interior in the Federal Register on April 2, 2015 (80 Fed. Reg. 17974 et seq.), only in such a way that—

(1) take incidental to any activity conducted in accordance with the habitat conservation measures identified at pages 18024 to 18205 of volume 80 of the Federal Register (April 2, 2015), as applicable, is not prohibited; and

(2) the public comment period for such interim rule is reopened for not less than 90 days.

WATERS OF THE UNITED STATES

SEC. 422. None of the funds made available in this Act or any other Act for any fiscal year may be used to develop, adopt, implement, administer, or enforce any change to the regulations and guidance in effect on October 1, 2012, pertaining to the definition of waters under the jurisdiction of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (33 U.S.C. 1251, et seq.), including the provisions of the rules dated November 13, 1986, and August 25, 1993, relating to said jurisdiction, and the guidance documents dated January 15, 2003, and December 2, 2008, relating to said jurisdiction.

STREAM BUFFER

SEC. 423. None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to develop, carry out, or implement

(1) any guidance, policy, or directive to reinterpret or change the historic interpretation of 30 C.F.R. 816.57, which was promulgated on June 30, 1983 by the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement of the Department of the Interior (48 Fed. Reg. 30312); or (2) proposed regulations or supporting materials described in the Federal Register notice published on June 18, 2010 (75 Fed. Reg. 34667) by the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement of the Department of the Interior.

LIMITATION ON USE OF FUNDS FOR NATIONAL OCEAN POLICY

SEC. 425. None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to further implementation of the coastal and marine spatial planning and ecosystem-based management components of the National Ocean Policy developed under Executive Order 13547.

DEFINITION OF FILL MATERIAL

SEC. 429. None of the funds made available in this Act or any other Act may be used by the Environmental Protection Agency to develop, adopt, implement, administer, or enforce any change to the regulations in effect on October 1, 2012, pertaining to the definitions of the terms ‘‘fill material’’ or ‘‘discharge of fill material’’ for the purposes of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (33 U.S.C. 1251 et seq.).

CHESAPEAKE BAY INITIATIVE

SEC. 431. Section 502(c) of the Chesapeake Bay Initiative Act of 1998 (Public Law 105–312; 16 U.S.C. 461 note) is amended by striking ‘‘2015’’ and inserting ‘‘2017.’’

EXTENSION OF GRAZING PERMITS

SEC. 432. The terms and conditions of section 325 of Public Law 108–108 (117 Stat. 1307), regarding grazing permits issued by the Forest Service on any lands not subject to administration under section 402 of the Federal Lands Policy and Management Act (43 U.S.C. 1752), shall remain in effect for fiscal year 2016.

AVAILABILITY OF VACANT GRAZING ALLOTMENTS

SEC. 433. The Secretary of the Interior, with respect to public lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management, and the Secretary of Agriculture, with respect to the National Forest System lands, shall make vacant grazing allotments available to a holder of a grazing permit or lease issued by either Secretary if the lands covered by the permit or lease or other grazing lands used by the holder of the permit or lease are unusable because of drought or wildfire, as determined by the Secretary concerned. The terms and conditions contained in a permit or lease made available pursuant to this section shall be the same as the terms and conditions of the most recent permit or lease that was applicable to the vacant grazing allotment made available. Section 102 of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (42 U.S.C. 4332) shall not apply with respect to any Federal agency action under this section.

PROTECTION OF WATER RIGHTS

SEC. 434. None of the funds made available in this or any other Act may be used to condition the issuance, renewal, amendment, or extension of any permit, approval, license, lease, allotment, easement, right-of-way, or other land use or occupancy agreement on the transfer of any water right, including sole and joint ownership, directly to the United States, or any impairment of title, in whole or in part, granted or otherwise recognized under State law, by Federal or State adjudication, decree, or other judgment, or pursuant to any interstate water compact. Additionally, none of the funds made available in this or any other Act may be used to require any water user to apply for or acquire a water right in the name of the United States under State law as a condition of the issuance, renewal, amendment, or extension of any permit, approval, license, lease, allotment, easement, right-of-way, or other land use or occupancy agreement.

Jun 042015
 

U.S. District Judge H. Russel Holland has found it "plausible" that the Federal Advisory Committee Act applies to opponents of the Pebble Mine in Alaska (Pebble Limited Partnership v. EPA, 14-171-HRH, D. Alaska).

"The three 'committees' that plaintiff alleges [EPA] established or utilized in violation of FACA are identified by plaintiff as 1) the Anti-Mine Coalition, 2) the Anti-Mine Scientists, and 3) the Anti-Mine Assessment Team," the judge said in his order, issued Thursday, June 4.

"Plaintiff alleges that defendants violated FACA as to each of these three 'committees' because defendants did not, among other things, (1) prepare and file charters, (2) chair all the meetings, (3) publish notices of meetings, and (4) ensure that membership in the committees was fairly balanced."

Although the agency did not "establish" the "committees," it may have "utilized" them, the judge said.

The company behind the mine proposal hailed the decision (press release).

The judge denied a motion for injunctive relief, in which the mine proponent sought to prevent EPA from using information from any of the "illegal" committees.

The federal judge's decision comes a few days after the Alaska Supreme Court issued a decision in favor of opponents. See coverage from Alaska Dispatch News, which also wrote about this decision

 

Jun 022015
 

Afternoon update:

A coalition of environmental groups has filed a lawsuit (technically, a petition for review) in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals challenging the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management's approval of Shell's exploration plan for the Chukchi Sea (Alaska Wilderness League v. Jewell). Scroll down for the petition. Here is the press release.

* * *

FWS and NMFS will have to take another look at a Habitat Conservation Plan after a court found that the services did not comply with the law when they issued Incidental Take Permits (Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center v. NOAA, 13-3717-NC, N.D. Cal.).

Here's the conclusion of the order from U.S. District Judge Nathanael Cousins, who had previously issued an opinion

Based on the discussion above, the Court VACATES the northern-spotted-owl incidental take permit issued by FWS, the coho-salmon incidental take permit issued by NMFS, the coho-salmon biological opinion issued by NMFS, the coho-salmon incidental take statement issued by NMFS, and the Final Environmental Impact Statement issued by both FWS and NMFS. The Court finds that the seriousness of the Services’ errors significantly outweighs the asserted disruptive consequences that would result from vacatur. This case is therefore REMANDED to the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service for further proceedings consistent with this Order.

The Court, however, DENIES KS Wild’s motion to vacate the records of decision. The Court also DENIES KS Wild’s request for an injunction against the Services and Fruit Growers; in particular, KS Wild has not satisfied the irreparable-harm requirement. Finally, the Court DISMISSES KS Wild’s third claim because of its failure to brief the issue at summary judgment.