ESA in the News: wind farms, climate change, and salmon vs. hydropower
Wind farms and the Endangered Species Act continue on their collision course. Horizon Wind Energy has suspended development of the Simpson Ridge wind farm in Carbon County because of Wyoming's rigid position on protecting key sage grouse habitat. See DallasNews.com. According to the Heartland Institute, the Animal Welfare Institute and Mountain Communities for Responsible Energy filed a federal lawsuit to require operators of a proposed West Virginia wind farm to obtain a “takings” permit under the Endangered Species Act before the Beech Ridge Energy wind farm in Greenbrier County can begin operations. At issue is potential take of endangered Indiana bats, and as many as 113 caves exist between five and 10 miles from the site that serve as Indiana bat habitat. “Sacrificing anything, especially endangered species, to enable one of the dumbest modern energy ideas imaginable is anathema,” said one environmentalist quoted by The Heartland Institute (and showing remarkable deafness to the clarion call of global climate change.)
Speaking of climate change, NPR recently reported that the American pika could become the first animal in the continental U.S. listed under the Endangered Species Act because of climate change. See prior ESA blawg discussing Federal Register announcement. ESA blawg also anticipated that the debate over newly confirmed Justice Sotomayor would include the Endangered Species Act, and indeed, cautious U.S. Senators voiced concerns about how a future Justice Sotomayor might vote on this issues. As reported by the New York Times, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) asked about Judge Sotomayor’s views of the Commerce Clause, noting that "One of the main concerns is that he court'sinterpretation, which is much more restrictive now, could impact important environmental laws, whether it be the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act or anything that we might even do in cap and trade." Judge Sotomayor punted the question, of course. "There are cases pending before the courts raising those arguments."
In another clash of species vs. "greener" energy, NOAA and the FWS will soon be responding one of Judge Redden's deadlines in the ongoing litigation over the Federal Columbia River Power System. See prior ESA blawg. On the opinion pages of OregonLive.com, Charles Wilkinson, a well-known environmental law professor, notes that the upcoming federal decision on how to manage the Snake River dam system and its effects on salmonid species poses an important test for the Obama Administration. His proposed solution is to tear down the dams, because "...times have changed in the Northwest. Large dams that no longer make sense are being removed on the Elwha, White Salmon and Klamath Rivers. The lower Snake dams deserve the same because they impose such high public costs and collide so directly with the ESA. They produce only a few percentage points of the Columbia-Snake system's hydropower, and there is ample analysis that it can be affordably replaced from noncarbon sources. And salmon mean jobs and business." Such a decision might satisfy the folks from Save Our Wild Salmon who held protests in D.C. (and who blogged about it with the photo above), but whatever decision the Administration makes on the Snake River and salmon, more litigation is a guarantee.
And, sadly, just like the salmon litigation, the Endangered Species Act law enforcement efforts never end either. A federal grand jury indicted a 78-year-old Kauai man in the shooting death of an endangered Hawaiian monk seal in May. See AP. An Oregon local TV news station KGW reports that two men accused of shooting one of Washington's few grizzly bears are expected to appear in federal court next week, facing felony violations of the Endangered Species Act. CapeLinks reported on an ongoing enforcement case over humpback whale harassment. And an FWS investigation is underway near Naples, Florida, where a landowner has been accused of large scale logging and improving of pasture at the HHH Ranch. The land serves as habitat for endangered species, including the Florida panther. According to NaplesNews.com, representatives of the ranch owners said the Fish and Wildlife Service agreed that the work would not violate the Endangered Species Act as long as crews protected red-cockaded woodpeckers and wood storks and improved habitat for the Florida panther.
Finally, the Florida news round-up. NOAA is expected to make a decision soon on whether longline fishing for shallow water grouper can continue without threatening loggerhead sea turtles. See Sarasota Herald Tribune. The Atlanta Journal Constitution, reporting on the ongoing Florida vs. Georgia struggle over Lake Lanier water, quotes U.S. Rep. John Linder (R-GA) to say that "the Endangered Species Act has become a blunt weapon," and that amending the statute "has to be brought to the table." The U.S. Navy's plans for expanding sonar testing off-shore from their Jacksonville, Florida bases has local environmentalists concerned about impacts on right whales. See The Post and Courier. And in a “how weird is that” moment, examiner.com reported on a dolphin frolicking in the water near Marco, Island, Florida, that leaped into a 22-foot boat.