On September 30, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS or Service) published proposed rule that would revise the regulations governing the issuance of eagle take permits (ETPs) under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.  87 Fed. Reg. 59,598 (September 30, 2022). In the preamble to the proposed rule, the Service acknowledges that its current ETP regulatory process, first established in 2009 and revised in 2016, is not working as intended.  In particular, the Service notes that “[w]hile there are more than 1,000 wind-energy projects on the landscape, the Service has received fewer than 100 applications from those projects and has currently issued only 26 permits since the promulgation of the 2016 Eagle Rule.”  87 Fed. Reg. at 59,602.

Continue Reading USFWS Tries Again to Make Eagle Take Permitting Process Work for Stakeholders and Wildlife

On April 6, 2022, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a proposed rule in the Federal Register that would build on its existing Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) program by limiting further the emission of nitrogen oxides (NOx) from stationary sources located in 26 states. 87 Fed. Reg. 20,036 (Apr, 6, 2022). The proposal would implement EPA’s 2015 National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ozone of 70 parts per billion by imposing Federal Implementation Plans (FIPs) on specified states pursuant to its authority under the “good neighbor” requirements of section 110(a)(2)(D)(i)(I) of the Clean Air Act. This provision requires upwind states to prevent sources located within their borders from contributing significantly to nonattainment or interfering with maintenance of the NAAQS in downwind states.

Continue Reading EPA Proposes Groundbreaking New Transport Rule for Ozone Air Pollution

The US Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS or the Service) revocation of the Trump administration’s Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) rule took effect last Friday, December 3.  On the same date, the public comment period closed on the Service’s Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR), in which USFWS announced its plan to issue a proposed regulation codifying an interpretation of the MBTA that prohibits incidental take, and to propose a system of regulations to authorize the incidental take of migratory birds under certain conditions.
Continue Reading Revocation of Trump Administration’s Migratory Bird Treaty Act Rule Takes Effect

On October 4, 2021, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS or the Service) published a final rule revoking its January 7, 2021, Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA or Act) rule. 86 Fed. Reg. 54,642  (Oct. 4, 2021) (Rule or Revocation Rule). The January 7 rule was issued at the end of the Trump administration and established that the MBTA does not prohibit incidental (unintentional) take of migratory birds.  86 Fed. Reg. 1134 (Jan. 7, 2021). In the preamble to the Rule, which lists an effective date of December 3, 2021, the Service explained that “[t]he immediate effect of this final rule is to return to implementing the MBTA as prohibiting incidental take and applying enforcement discretion, consistent with judicial precedent and longstanding agency practice prior to 2017.” 86 Fed. Reg. at 54,642.  On the same day it published the Revocation Rule, FWS also published an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR), requesting public input that will be used to develop proposed regulations to authorize the incidental take of migratory birds under prescribed conditions, 86 Fed. Reg. 54,667 (Oct. 4, 2021), and issued a Director’s Order clarifying the Service’s current enforcement position.

Continue Reading FWS Revokes Trump Administration’s Migratory Bird Treaty Act Rule

In response to judicial remand of its Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) Update, EPA published a revised CSAPR Update – the latest of EPA’s interstate transport rules using its CSAPR methodology – at the end of April 2021, slashing ozone-season budgets for emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) for a dozen states. By the end of the 60-day period for filing petitions for judicial review on June 29, a single petition for judicial review had been filed in the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit.
Continue Reading EPA’s Revised CSAPR Updated is Issued and a Single Petition for Review is Filed in the DC Circuit

On May 7, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS or Service) under the new Biden administration published a proposed rule to revoke a final rule issued during the final weeks of the Trump administration, 86 Fed. Reg. 1134 (Jan. 7, 2021) (January 7 rule), which excluded incidental take from the prohibition against take under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA or Act). 86 Fed. Reg. 24,573 (May 7, 2021) (Proposed Rule). This proposal is the latest development in a series of efforts by recent presidential administrations to implement competing interpretations of the MBTA, as we have reported in previous articles. If USFWS revokes the January 7 rule as proposed, the regulated community will once again face uncertainty regarding its exposure to criminal enforcement under the MBTA for unintentional take of protected birds associated with a wide range of productive activities.  Notably this could include the operation of wind turbines, an activity that the current administration otherwise presumably wants to encourage as part of its effort to expand the use of renewable energy to address climate change.

Continue Reading USFWS Proposes to Reverse Course (Again) Regarding Incidental Take Under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act

On January 7, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS or Service) published a final rule providing that the scope of the prohibition of take under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA or Act) applies “only to actions directed at migratory birds, their nests, or their eggs,” and does not prohibit incidental take (i.e., take that is not the purpose of an activity).  86 Fed. Reg. 1134 (January 7, 2021).  The rule, which lists an effective date of February 8, 2021, represents the latest in a series of efforts by recent presidential administrations to implement competing interpretations of the MBTA.  If it stands under the incoming administration, this rule will have important implications for the wind energy industry, among other sectors.
Continue Reading USFWS Issues Rule Excluding Incidental Take from the Migratory Bird Treaty Act: Implications for the Wind Energy Industry

On October 30, 2020, EPA published in the Federal Register a proposed rule to revise its 2016 Cross-State Air Pollution Rule Update (the CSAPR Update) to further reduce interstate air pollution from 12 upwind states. EPA is proposing this revision pursuant to its authority under the Clean Air Act’s “Good Neighbor” provision (section 110(a)(2)(D)(i)(l)), which requires upwind states to prevent sources located within their borders from contributing significantly to nonattainment or interfering with maintenance, of the national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) in downwind states.

Continue Reading EPA Issues Proposed Revisions to CSAPR Update

All three branches of the federal government are currently considering the question of whether the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) prohibits the take of protected birds that is incidental to some otherwise lawful activity. The latest development is a proposal by US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS or Service) to issue a regulation expressly defining the scope of the MBTA to exclude take “that results from, but is not the purpose of, an action (i.e., incidental taking or killing).” 85 Fed. Reg. 5915 (Feb. 3, 2020). This proposal is the latest effort by the USFWS to bring clarity and certainty to a question that has been the subject of dispute for years and is currently both the subject of pending lawsuits and proposed legislation before Congress. If adopted, the rule should bolster the current administration’s effort to defend its interpretation of the statute, but the question is likely to be litigated further, assuming Congress does not intervene (seemingly unlikely for now).
Continue Reading USFWS Makes Another Move to Exclude Incidental Take from the Migratory Bird Treaty Act

The United States’ first major offshore wind energy project is running into delays as federal agencies internally debate whether the project plan adequately protects the fishing industry. How the agencies resolve the degree to which the project plan must address the fishing industry’s concerns will shape how future offshore wind energy projects are planned and permitted.
Continue Reading First Major US Offshore Wind Project Delayed by Fishing Industry Concerns