Photo of Andrea Wortzel

On March 27, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) (collectively, the Services) issued three sets of final rules revising the Endangered Species Act (ESA) regulations. The effective date of the regulations will not be known until the regulations are published in the Federal Register. In the meantime, the final regulations can be found on the FWS website.Continue Reading Final ESA Rules Include Fundamental Shift in RPMs

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) continues to focus on protections for bat species that have been ravaged by white-nose syndrome. In 2023, the Northern Long-Eared Bat (NLEB) was uplisted to endangered status. The FWS proposed to list the Tricolored Bat (TCB) as endangered in 2022, with a target date of September 2024 to finalize the listing. However, on April 1, FWS issued a series of guidance documents covering both NLEB and TCB, suggesting that the TCB endangered listing may be accelerated. Like the NLEB, the TCB has extensive habitat throughout the U.S. (37 states for NLEB, and 39 states for TCB). Accordingly, these listings have significant impacts on projects that involve tree clearing.Continue Reading FWS Prepares for Tricolored Bat Listing With New Guidance

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has issued its long-awaited climate reporting requirements, making it mandatory for the largest publicly traded companies in the U.S. to annually disclose both greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and their material climate risks, with some requirements kicking in as early as 2025. On March 6, the SEC voted 3-2 along party lines to pass a pared down version of its March 2022 proposal, giving regulated companies the final word on the much-anticipated rule.Continue Reading SEC Issues Final Climate Disclosure Rules, Paring Down Its 2022 Proposal, With Implications for Greenwashing Claims

Effective April 12, a new eagle take permitting regime will be in place. The eagle take permitting scheme has been criticized because of its overly conservative and burdensome requirements. These concerns culminated in a lawsuit filed against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). Debra Shearwater et al. v. FWS, Case No. 14-CV-02830 (N.D. Cal 2015). The changes to the permitting regulations published on February 8 are the outcome of that litigation.Continue Reading Changes to Eagle Take Permitting Finalized by Fish and Wildlife Service

At the end of January, a federal judge issued a ruling in a high-profile environmental justice case, Louisiana v. EPA, brought by Louisiana against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). The ruling temporarily blocks EPA and DOJ attempts to enforce disparate-impact regulations promulgated under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act against Louisiana state agencies. Beyond that, the decision has potentially significant ramifications for the Biden administration’s ongoing environmental justice initiatives.Continue Reading Louisiana v. EPA: A Turning Point for Title VI and Environmental Justice?

Introduction

On November 30, 2023, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its Proposed Lead and Copper Rule Improvements (LCRI).[1] With this proposal, EPA aims to simplify and expand upon the 2021 Lead and Copper Rule Revisions (LCRR) and the original 1991 Lead and Copper Rule (LCR). The proposed LCRI outlines aggressive measures to achieve further reductions of lead in drinking water. This initiative brings to the forefront a critical question: Are the potential health benefits projected by EPA enough to justify the scope and extent of the rule and its related hefty price tag?Continue Reading The Long-Awaited Lead and Copper Rule Improvements Have Arrived

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has proposed listing the northwestern pond turtle (Actinemys marmorata) and the southwestern pond turtle (Actinemys pallida) as threatened species under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA), with a final listing decision likely to occur next year. Listing the turtles would affect large swaths of California, Oregon, Washington, and parts of Nevada — the northwestern pond currently inhabits portions of Washington, Oregon, Nevada, as well as northern and central California, and the southwestern pond turtle is found in central and southern California from northern Monterey County into Baja California, Mexico. The turtles rely on aquatic habitats such as streams, ponds, and adjacent uplands, and they are found from cool coastal regions to the Mojave River watershed.Continue Reading Western Pond Turtle Listing Will Impact Land and Water Managers Throughout the Western U.S.

Last week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) released two revised compensatory policies. The Mitigation Policy and the ESA Compensatory Mitigation Policy reject the stringent goal of net conservation gain used by the FWS during the Obama administration. Instead, both policies include the goal of no net loss, which means maintaining the current status of affected resources. While the policies are nonbinding, they will guide how the FWS evaluates compensatory mitigation in the context of incidental take permitting, conservation benefit agreements for candidate species, and ESA Section 7 consultation. Both policies do not apply retroactively to completed actions, but the FWS may elect to apply the Mitigation Policy’s principles to actions under review. Both policies continue to favor advance compensatory mitigation over other mitigation options.Continue Reading Fish and Wildlife Service Revises Its Mitigation Policies

*Chelsey Noble is a law clerk in the Richmond office and is not licensed to practice law in any jurisdiction.

In 2020, New Jersey enacted a first-of-its-kind environmental justice statute, the Environmental Justice Law (EJ Law). The EJ Law requires that permit applicants for certain water, waste, and air facilities located, wholly or partially, in overburdened communities prepare an environmental justice impact statement (EJIS) and engage in meaningful public participation. Significantly, the EJ Law included a provision requiring the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJ DEP) to deny a permit if a disproportionate impact on overburdened communities cannot be avoided.Continue Reading New Jersey Moves Forward with Implementation of First-of-Its-Kind Environmental Justice Statute

*Chelsey Noble is a law clerk in the Richmond office and is not licensed to practice law in any jurisdiction.

On April 21, President Biden signed Executive Order No. 14096 (EO), titled “Revitalizing Our Nation’s Commitment to Environmental Justice For All.” The EO builds on prior executive orders by President Biden related to environmental justice, racial equity, and climate change, as well as on the original executive order on environmental justice issued in 1994 by President Clinton (Executive Order No. 12898). Overall, the EO establishes a stronger framework with specific milestones for implementing environmental justice across federal agencies. Below is a summary of the EO’s key provisions.Continue Reading President Biden Signs Executive Order on Environmental Justice