Previously, we reported on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (“USFWS”) issuance of the final ESA Compensatory Mitigation Policy (“ESA-CMP”), the first comprehensive treatment of compensatory mitigation under the Endangered Species Act. Endangered Species Act Compensatory Mitigation Policy, 81 FR 95316 (Dec. 27, 2016). The policy formalizes the Services’ shift from project-by-project to landscape-scale approaches to planning and implementing compensatory mitigation. We also reported on the Services’ issuance of a final revised Mitigation Policy in November 2016 intended to serve as an overall umbrella strategy under which more detailed Service sub-policies or guidance documents covering specific activities would be issued. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Mitigation Policy, 81 FR 83440 (Nov. 21, 2016). Both policies focus on using mitigation to achieve a “net conservation benefit.”
Troutman Sanders has formed a new group, Species Strategies and Solutions (S3), which will track policy, regulatory, legislative, and litigation developments regarding federally-protected wildlife and plants. Initiatives to address infrastructure projects, and how those initiatives relate to species-related review requirements, will also be featured. S3 will be focused primarily on national-level species-related developments that have the potential to affect construction and operation of projects in those sectors. S3 is not a lobbying or advocacy group; rather, its purpose is to facilitate a better understanding of the issues associated with compliance with the Endangered Species Act, and strategies for addressing those issues. Continue Reading Troutman Sanders Forms Group Focused on Species Issues
On August 17, 2017, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) published in the Federal Register a final rule designating over 3,900 river miles along the east coast as critical habitat for five distinct population segments (“DPS”) of Atlantic Sturgeon (New York Bight, Chesapeake Bay, Carolina, South Atlantic and Gulf of Maine). The agency chose these areas based on the presence of “physical or biological factors” (PBFs) essential for the conservation of the species and that may require special management considerations or protection. Back in 2012, NMFS had listed each of the five Atlantic Sturgeon DPS as either endangered or threatened. 77 Fed. Reg. 5880; 77 Fed. Reg. 5914. Once a species is listed, the relevant agencies must identify critical habitat for the species. Under the ESA, impacts to critical habitat must be evaluated in federal permitting actions, in addition to impacts to the species itself.
On May 23rd, the Trump administration released its full fiscal year 2018 budget proposal, continuing its call for significant funding cuts for many EPA programs. Consistent with the framework outlined in the administration’s “skinny” budget issued earlier in March, the proposal would cut EPA’s overall budget by 31.4 percent, reducing overall spending from $8 billion in 2017 to $5.7 billion for 2018. The plan would eliminate approximately 20 percent of the agency’s workforce, reducing the number of staff from over 15,000 to approximately 11,600, a reduction of approximately 3,800 jobs.
As previously reported, President Trump has issued an Executive Order calling on EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) to formally review the “Clean Water Rule” also known as the Water of the United States (WOTUS) Rulemaking. On April 19, EPA laid outs its plans for revising the Clean Water Rule consistent with the Executive Order in a meeting with state and local officials. Continue Reading EPA Sets Out Plans For WOTUS Replacement
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently initiated actions in response to multiple Executive Orders issued by President Trump directing major regulatory reforms. In a staff memo intended to facilitate compliance with the “Enforcing the Regulatory Reform Agenda” Executive Order, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt designated a Regulatory Reform Officer and established a Regulatory Reform Task Force to evaluate existing regulations and make recommendations regarding those that can be repealed, replaced or modified to reduce the burdens on the regulated community. Administrator Pruitt further directed the Offices of Air and Radiation, Land and Emergency Management, Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, Water, Environmental Information, Congressional and Intergovernmental Relations and Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization to provide the Task Force with recommendations for specific rules that should be targeted. Each of these offices must hold a dedicated public meeting and provide their recommendations by May 15th.
Continuing its call for reduced spending at U.S. EPA, the Trump administration proposed additional budget cuts at the agency for the remaining 6 months of fiscal year 2017. The administration proposal calls for reductions in spending at EPA totaling $247 million.
Following a short delay caused by the Trump Administration’s January 20, 2017 White House Memorandum halting implementation of several regulatory processes, the rusty patched bumble bee was officially listed as an endangered species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (the “Service”) on March 21, 2017.
The Trump administration released its proposed budget today, calling for steep cuts in funding for U.S. EPA. The plan proposes an EPA budget of $5.7 billion, a reduction of $2.6 billion from current levels, representing a 31 percent cut in overall funding.
EPA has reportedly been instructed by the Office of Management and Budget (“OMB”) to develop a plan for consolidating its ten (10) regional offices into eight (8) as a way to realize efficiencies and reduce costs. The proposed reduction in the number of regional offices is part of the OMB’s broader budget document for fiscal year 2018, which is reported to propose a 25 percent cut to the agency’s overall budget, a 30 percent reduction in state grants, and a 20 percent cut in personnel. The proposals are preliminary, and President Trump’s official budget outline for FY 2018 is expected to be issued March 16th. The federal fiscal year begins on October 1st.