IPAA and API Engaging on Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) and American Petroleum Institute (API) sent a letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this week, requesting a 90-day extension on the Migratory Bird Treaty Act Notice of Intent. As the associations highlight in their letter, environmental stewardship is an important part of oil and gas development, and the industry is reviewing the current notice of intent as it relates to their operations. The associations also request Fish and Wildlife extend the comment period on the notice, ensuring industry is able to review and appropriately respond. Read the full letter HERE, and expect additional updates from IPAA’s ESA Watch team soon.
Industries continue to advocate for fair NLEB 4(d) rule. Last week, IPAA and API filed joint comments with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service on the interim 4(d) rule for the northern long-eared bat, emphasizing that the Service’s record does not support disparate treatment of timber harvesting and oil and gas activities. As highlighted this week in Law 360, the comments state:
“Given that the habitat impacts from oil and gas activities are far less than the habitat impacts from timber harvesting, the two rationales given by FWS for treating timber harvesting differently than oil and gas development activities are not sufficient. There is no rational basis for the distinction that FWS attempts to draw between these two types of activities in terms of their potential impact on[the bat’s] habitat.”
Also this month, the National Rural Electric Cooperative (NRECA) submitted comments on the rule, urging the Service better define the 4(d) rule to add a provision for new utility line installation, equipment and service connections. According to NRECA, “the conservation measures within the 4(d) rule could sufficiently minimize actions that would warrant formal consultation by the agency.” A final 4(d) rule for the northern long-eared bat is expected by the end of the year. To read more, visit IPAA’s species page on the bat and the Fish and Wildlife’s Q&A page on the rule.
House of Representatives debates Department of Interior appropriations bill. This week the U.S. House of Representatives continued its consideration of the $30.17 billion appropriations bill for the Department of the Interior, which includes funding for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). While the bill was pulled Thursday afternoon over disagreement on an unrelated amendment, it contained a few provisions that provided direction to Interior with regard to the Endangered Species Act, including:
- Section 117, a bill to prohibit Interior from issuing any rule for the greater sage-grouse that would classify the bird as threatened or endangered.
- Section 121, a bill to require Interior to no longer consider the gray wolf as threatened or endangered.
- Section 122, to amend an interim rule regarding the northern long-eared bat published in April of this year to require Interior to reopen the public comment period on the rule and to allow permits to be issued to private companies wishing to develop in the bat’s habitat.
Lawmakers also introduced amendments to the spending bill, including Congressmen Thompson (R-PA-5) who introduced a limiting amendment preventing the northern long-eared bat from being listed as endangered. Congressmen Yoder (R-KS-3) and Lamborn (R-CO-5) introduced amendments prohibiting the DOI from listing the lesser prairie chicken and the Preble’s meadow jumping mouse as threatened species. Congressman Lamborn also introduced an amendment prohibiting the implementation or enforcement of the threatened or endangered species listing of any plant or wildlife that hasn’t undergone a review as required by the Endangered Species Act. Also passed were amendments to prohibit the DOI from treating gray wolves in Washington, Oregon, or Utah as endangered or threatened and to prevent the Service from enforcing ESA protection with respect to the Clubshell, Fanshell, Rabbitsfoot, Rayed Bean, Sheepnose, and Snuffbox mussels.
IPAA’s ESA Watch team will continue to monitor for developments related to the appropriations bill in days to come.
In the News
BLM receives challenges to greater sage-grouse plans from all sides. Lexology. Following the May 28, 2015 release by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) of 14 final Environmental Impact Statements (EISs) for land use plans designed to provide greater protection to the greater sage-grouse on approximately 50 million acres of BLM-managed land in 10 different western states, more than 40 environmental groups, industry organizations, states, and counties have filed formal complaints with the BLM, protesting various aspects of the plans.
LPC listing impacts oil company. The Motley Fool. SandRidge Energy faces a number of environmental risks that threaten to slow down future growth. In its annual report, it highlighted the fact that “the recently listing of the lesser prairie chicken as a threatened species under the federal Endangered Species Act may serve to delay or limit the operations of the company” as it could limit its ability to drill in certain areas during its breeding and nesting seasons.
Invasive grass, fire a deadly one-two punch for sage grouse. E&E News (sub req’d). Invasive cheat-grass is overtaking native plants, priming this semiarid desert for fiercer and more frequent wildfires. The big loser in this ecological coup occurring throughout the Great Basin: the greater sage grouse. The agency ranks wildfire and invasive species as the grouse’s top two threats in the western half of its 11-state range, particularly in the Great Basin states of Oregon, Idaho, Nevada and Utah. Those two threats will take center stage in September when Fish and Wildlife decides whether grouse need protection under the Endangered Species Act.
GRMR Oil and Gas begins drilling in key sage grouse habitat near Battle Mountain. Casper Star Tribune. A Colorado oil company has begun drilling test wells in key sage grouse habitat near Battle Mountain in south-central Wyoming. Bob Budd, who leads the state’s sage grouse team, said the three wells are being drilled in compliance with Wyoming’s core area strategy, as the conservation plan is officially known. Sage grouse numbers have declined precipitously in recent decades. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will make a decision on whether it warrants protection under the Endangered Species Act in September.
BLM gets more than 200 protests of grouse protection plans. E&E News (sub req’d). When Interior Secretary Sally Jewell in May unveiled sweeping federal plans for protecting the greater sage grouse and its dwindling habitat, she hailed them as an “amazing milestone” that showcased an unprecedented collaboration between Western states and federal regulators to save the imperiled bird. But at least six states, from Idaho to Colorado, are among more than 200 protests filed this week with the Bureau of Land Management against all or parts of the federal plans that propose to amend 98 BLM and Forest Service land-use plans to incorporate grouse protections designed to prevent an Endangered Species Act listing.