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Brown Bag Seminar:
Webinar: Conducting Environmental Impact Review on Endangered Species Act Implementation-Achieving Informed Species Protection with Public Accountability
Friday, May 20, 2011
12:00 - 1:00 p.m.
Attendees can attend via webinar or in person at:
Natural Resources Subsection of the State Bar Association's Real Property Section
Environmental regulators and natural resource managers face an ever-increasing challenge of satisfying competing societal demands for limited natural resources. That often requires a difficult balancing of conflicting resource demands. Environmental litigants and zealous regulatory agency staff often use the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) to elevate the protection of federally listed species over competing natural resource demands. But actions taken for the benefit of one listed species can cause significant adverse effects on other aspects of the environment and society.
A prime example of such conflict arises from regulatory efforts to protect listed fish species in California’s Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, through which the State Water Project (SWP) and federal Central Valley Project (CVP) deliver billions of gallons of fresh water for drinking by more than 25 million Californians and irrigation of more than 2 million acres of farmland. Urban and agricultural environments from the San Francisco Bay Area and the San Joaquin Valley to Southern California physically depend on the ongoing delivery of fresh water through the Delta. However, in 2008, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) issued an ESA section 7 biological opinion requiring significant changes to the coordinated operations of the SWP and CVP in a way that would reduce the ongoing physical availability of SWP and CVP water.
SWP and CVP water users brought litigation challenging the failure to analyze and disclose the significance of adverse environmental impacts from issuing and implementing the FWS’s biological opinion pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The U.S. District Court held that the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation had violated NEPA in implementing the biological opinion without considering or disclosing the impacts of changing CVP operations in order to protect listed Delta fish species. That same holding was later applied to a biological opinion issued by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to protect certain listed salmon species. The holdings arise as the latest in an emerging line of cases recognizing that NEPA’s environmental review procedure applies to implementation of the federal ESA. More broadly, the holdings recognize that regulatory actions intended to protect one environmental factor (i.e., certain listed species) must be informed by the analysis and public disclosure of significant impacts on other environmental factors (e.g., urban and agricultural environments).
Event participants will learn the context and content of these recent rulings and other federal rulings involving NEPA’s application to the ESA. The legal and policy rationale of these decisions will be discussed. Event participants will also receive an overview of similar issues regarding the application of the California Environmental Quality Act to the California Endangered Species Act.
To sign up for the webinar, please visit the State Bar's website
To sign up to attend in person, please email Kristy Garza