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Federal Judge to Hear Border Wall Challenge in D.C.

Media Advisory, December 17, 2018

Contacts: Paulo Lopes, (202) 849-8398, plopes@biologicaldiversity.org
Mary K. Reinhart, (602) 320-7309, mkreinhart@biologicaldiversity.org

WASHINGTON— The Center for Biological Diversity and other conservation groups will present arguments Tuesday in a lawsuit against the Trump administration’s border-wall construction in New Mexico.

U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is presiding over the case. The judge will hear arguments from both sides during the proceeding and could issue her ruling at any time following the hearing. The lawsuit challenges the administration’s use of a long-expired waiver to sweep aside 25 laws that protect clean air, clean water, public lands and endangered wildlife.

“Trump can’t ignore dozens of bedrock environmental laws, no matter how desperate he is to build his destructive border wall,” said Jean Su, a Center attorney. “It’s time to stop Trump’s reckless executive overreach before he inflicts more damage on people and wildlife in the borderlands. We look forward to arguing the merits of this case.”
What: Federal court hearing challenging Trump’s border wall.
Where: U.S. District Courthouse, 333 Constitution Ave. N.W., Courtroom 17 – 6th Floor.
When: Tuesday, Dec. 18, 10:30 a.m.
Media Availability: Attorneys and conservation advocates will be available for interviews outside the courthouse, before and after the hearing.
Background

The Department of Homeland Security exempted itself from dozens of laws to rush border-wall construction in New Mexico. But the waiver authority, granted by Congress more than 10 years ago, no longer applies.

The border-wall project includes 20 miles of new 18 foot-high steel bollard walls, which obstruct the natural migrations of wildlife. Dozens of rare wildlife species, including the aplomado falcon and Mexican gray wolf, make their homes in this region of New Mexico, as do kit foxes, bighorn sheep and ringtail cats. The area is also within historic jaguar habitat.

A 2017 study by the Center identified more than 90 endangered or threatened species that would be threatened by proposed wall construction along the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border.

Beyond jeopardizing wildlife, endangered species and public lands, the U.S.-Mexico border wall is part of a larger strategy of ongoing border militarization that damages human rights, civil liberties, native lands, local businesses and international relations. The border wall impedes the natural migrations of people and wildlife that are essential to healthy diversity.

 
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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Court Hears Arguments to Stop Destructive Highway-widening Project Through Ancient California Redwoods

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 28, 2018

Contact: Peter Galvin, (707) 986-2600, pgalvin@biologicaldiversity.org

SAN FRANCISCO (November 28, 2018) — Conservation groups and Humboldt residents appeared in federal court today for a hearing on a legal challenge to Caltrans’ controversial “Richardson Grove Operational Improvement Project.” The project would needlessly damage and harm ancient redwood trees in California’s iconic Richardson Grove State Park along Highway 101 in Humboldt County.

The highway-widening project would damage the roots of more than 100 of Richardson Grove’s ancient redwoods, including trees up to 3,000 years old, 18 feet in diameter and 300 feet tall. Caltrans has pursued this project solely to incrementally improve passage for oversized commercial trucks, and continues to rely on inadequate environmental review.

“These are some of California’s oldest and most iconic trees. It’s ridiculous that Caltrans continues to push a plan to hack into them just to accommodate a few more huge trucks,” said Peter Galvin with the Center for Biological Diversity. “The redwoods of Richardson Grove have survived for thousands of years, and we’ll continue fighting to keep these ancient trees intact.”

At today’s hearing before Judge William Alsup in the U.S. District Court in San Francisco, the plaintiffs and Caltrans presented motions for summary judgment, with each side arguing that its case should prevail as a matter of fact and law without going to trial. The motions are under submission and a court ruling is forthcoming.

Litigation against the Caltrans project in Richardson Grove has been pursued in both state and federal court. In 2012 the federal court issued a temporary injunction stopping the project, citing numerous errors in Caltrans’ mapping and measurement of affected old-growth redwoods and use of faulty data. The state court ruled in May 2018 against a Caltrans motion to dismiss the state lawsuit.

Background

The federal lawsuit challenges Caltrans’ violations of the National Environmental Policy Act due to inadequate evaluation of the environmental impacts of cutting into tree roots. The suit also alleges violations of the Transportation Act, which requires highway projects with federal funding to minimize harm to natural resources in state parks.

The lawsuit was filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, Environmental Protection Information Center, Friends of Del Norte, Californians for Alternatives to Toxics, and longtime local residents Bess Bair, Trisha Lee Lotus, Jeffrey Hedin and David Spreen.

Previous legal challenges had blocked construction and forced Caltrans to rescind all project approvals in 2014. The agency reapproved the project in 2017, claiming it had made significant changes. However, Caltrans still intends to cut into tree roots, threatening the stability and viability of old-growth redwoods. The conservation groups also filed suit in state court challenging the new project approval.

Richardson Grove State Park, where tourists often first encounter large redwoods when heading north on Highway 101, is home to one of the last protected stands of accessible old-growth redwood trees in the world. The park has essential habitat for threatened and endangered species such as the northern spotted owl, and its creeks support runs of imperiled salmon and steelhead trout.

Caltrans first proposed the project in 2007, claiming the widening is needed to accommodate large-truck travel. But Highway 101 through Richardson Grove is already designated for larger trucks and does not have significant safety problems. The agency cannot demonstrate that the project is necessary for safety or would benefit the local economy.

The attorneys for the plaintiffs in this suit are Philip Gregory of Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy LLP; Stuart Gross of Gross & Klein LLP; and Sharon Duggan, a staff attorney with EPIC and a long-time expert on environmental law.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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Otsego 2000 Challenges FERC Decision to Ignore GHG Impacts

Contact: Ellen Pope, director@otsego2000.org, 607-547-8881

COOPERSTOWN, NY (November 26, 2018) — On Monday, November 26, Otsego 2000 filed an appeal to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, challenging the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) decision permitting Dominion Transmission Inc.’s New Market Project to proceed. Otsego 2000 argues that in permitting this project, FERC violated the Natural Gas Act, NEPA, and binding legal precedent, when FERC refused to consider upstream or downstream GHG impacts wrongfully deciding that these impacts were not foreseeable or quantifiable. FERC also announced a significant policy change stating that for the same reasons, it would no longer consider GHG impacts in future cases. By announcing a significant policy change in a single docket, FERC also violated the Administrative Procedure Act which requires agencies to give notice of proposed policy changes, and allow public comment. By its action, FERC denied due process to citizens and stakeholders across the nation who had no notice of FERC’s plan until it was too late to intervene.

“At a time of surging concern for climate change and growing scientific evidence of its causes, FERC’s announcement of a new ‘policy’ to refuse to even consider GHG emission impacts, in defiance of existing law, must be rejected,” said Nicole Dillingham, President of Otsego 2000’s Board of Directors. She added: “The fact that FERC attempts to announce such a policy in a single docket denies all other others of their due process rights. Otsego 2000, as the only party with standing to appeal, simply cannot let this go unchallenged.”

Otsego 2000, an environmental and preservation advocacy organization based in Cooperstown, NY, is represented by Michael Sussman, Esq., of Sussman & Associates, Goshen, NY.

To read the brief and keep up-to-date on the case as it moves forward, visit .

 

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In Blow to Pipeline Project, Court Invalidates Trump Administration’s Keystone XL Environmental Review, Blocks Construction

For Immediate Release, November 9, 2018

Contact: Margie Kelly, Natural Resources Defense Council, (541) 222-9699, mkelly@nrdc.org
Mark Hefflinger, Bold Nebraska, (323) 972-5192, mark@boldalliance.org
Gabby Brown, Sierra Club, (914) 261-4626, gabby.brown@sierraclub.org
Jared Margolis, Center for Biological Diversity, (802) 310-4054, jmargolis@biologicaldiversity.org
Patrick Davis, Friends of the Earth, (202) 222-0744, pdavis@foe.org
Dustin Ogdin, Northern Plains Resource Council, (406) 228-1154, dustin@northernplains.org
Dena Hoff, Northern Plains Resource Council, (406) 939-1839

GREAT FALLS, MT (November 9, 2018) — A federal judge ruled yesterday that the Trump administration violated bedrock U.S. environmental laws when approving a federal permit for TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline project. The judge blocked any construction on the pipeline and ordered the government to revise its environmental review.

The decision is a significant setback for a pipeline that investors are already seriously questioning. TransCanada has not yet announced a Final Investment Decision on whether to move forward and build Keystone XL should it receive all the necessary permits.

U.S. District Court Judge Brian Morris found that the Trump administration’s reliance on a stale environmental review from 2014 violated the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act and the Administrative Procedure Act. This ruling follows the court’s previous decision on August 15 to require additional analysis of the new route through Nebraska.

The court required the U.S. Department of State to revise the proposed project’s environmental impact statement to evaluate the extraordinary changes in oil markets that have occurred since the previous review was completed in 2014; to consider the combined climate impacts of approving both the Keystone XL and other tar sands pipelines; to study the many cultural resources along the pipeline’s route; and to examine the harmful risks of oil spills on nearby water and wildlife.

The State Department must also provide a reasoned explanation for its decision to reverse course and approve the permit, after the Obama administration denied it just three years ago on the same set of facts.

Based on these violations, the court ordered the State Department to revise its environmental analysis, and prohibited any work along the proposed route — which would cross Nebraska, South Dakota, and Montana — until that analysis is complete. Keystone XL would have carried up to 35 million gallons a day of Canadian tar sands — one of the world’s dirtiest energy sources — across critical water sources and wildlife habitat to Gulf Coast refineries.

Plaintiffs Northern Plains Resource Council, Bold Alliance, Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth, Natural Resources Defense Council and Sierra Club filed the lawsuit in March 2017 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana.

Quotes

“Today’s ruling is a victory for the rule of law, and it’s a victory for common sense stewardship of the land and water upon which we all depend. Despite the best efforts of wealthy, multinational corporations and the powerful politicians who cynically do their bidding, we see that everyday people can still band together and successfully defend their rights. All Americans should be proud that our system of checks and balances can still function even in the face of enormous strains,” said Dena Hoff, Montana farmer and member-leader of the Northern Plains Resource Council.

“Farmers and our Tribal Nation allies in Nebraska, South Dakota and Montana celebrate today’s victory foiling the Trump administration’s scheme to rubber-stamp the approval of Keystone XL. This now ten-year battle is still far from over. We’ll continue to stand together against this tar sands export pipeline that threatens property rights, water and climate at every opportunity, at every public hearing. People on the route deserve due process and the Ponca Trail of Tears must be protected,” said Mark Hefflinger, communications director for Bold Alliance.

“Today’s ruling makes it clear once and for all that it’s time for TransCanada to give up on their Keystone XL pipe dream,” said Sierra Club Senior Attorney Doug Hayes. “The Trump administration tried to force this dirty pipeline project on the American people, but they can’t ignore the threats it would pose to our clean water, our climate, and our communities.”

“This is a complete repudiation of the Trump administration’s attempts to evade environmental laws and prioritize oil company profits over clean water and wildlife,” said Jared Margolis, senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Keystone XL would devastate species and put communities at risk of contamination. There’s simply no excuse for approving this terrible project. We need to move away from fossil fuel dependence, not support more devastation.”

“Keystone XL would be a disaster for the climate and for the people and wildlife of this country,” said Jackie Prange, senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “As the court has made clear yet again, the Trump administration’s flawed and dangerous proposal should be shelved forever.”

“Today’s ruling is a decisive moment in our fight against the corporate polluters who have rushed to destroy our planet,” said Marcie Keever, legal director at Friends of the Earth. “Rejecting the destructive Keystone XL pipeline is a victory for the grassroots activists who have worked against the Keystone XL pipeline for the past decade. Environmental laws exist to protect people and our lands and waters. Today, the courts showed the Trump administration and their corporate polluter friends that they cannot bully rural landowners, farmers, environmentalists and Native communities.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

 

*** The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places. ***
 

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Lawsuit Challenges Trump Administration’s Texas Border Wall Waivers

For Immediate Release, October 18, 2018

Contact: Jean Su, Center for Biological Diversity, (415) 770-3187, jsu@biologicaldiversity.org
Natalia Lima, Animal Legal Defense Fund, (201) 679-7088, nlima@aldf.org
Rebecca Bullis, Defenders of Wildlife, (202) 772-0295, rbullis@defenders.org

WASHINGTON (October 18, 2018) — Conservation groups sued the Trump administration today for waiving 28 conservation laws to speed construction of the border wall along the Rio Grande Valley in Texas.

Border-wall construction would cut through the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge, National Butterfly Center, Bentsen-Rio Grande State Park and the grounds of the historic La Lomita Chapel, as well as family farms and other private property.

“The Trump administration is casting aside bedrock environmental protections with no regard for human health, wildlife or the law,” said Jean Su, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Waiving these laws is disastrous for border communities and imperiled animals, and it’s unconstitutional. We hope the courts stop Trump’s reckless abuse of power before bulldozers destroy some of the most spectacular wildlands in Texas.”

Today’s filing in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. says the Department of Homeland Security does not have authority to waive the Endangered Species Act, National Environmental Policy Act or other laws that protect clean air, clean water, public lands and wildlife in the borderlands.

The department wants to sweep aside these laws to speed construction of 18 miles of 30-foot-high, levee-style border walls in Hidalgo County, as well as gates and other border-wall infrastructure in Cameron County.

The levee-style walls planned for construction will block the natural migration of wildlife and cause dangerous flooding. Existing walls have been implicated in the deaths of hundreds of Texas tortoises and other animals due to flooding, which is common in the Rio Grande Valley.

The waivers also will allow bulldozing of a 150-foot “enforcement zone” south of the wall and installation of surveillance equipment, lighting and other infrastructure with no meaningful environmental review.

“These most recent waivers of vital environmental and animal-protection laws demonstrate the administration’s continued disregard for wildlife, including the most fragile species that could be pushed to extinction by these projects,” said Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Stephen Wells. “Building a wall that cuts through the heart of vital parks, wildlife refuges and the National Butterfly Center will have devastating effects on these critical areas and the wildlife that calls these areas their home.”

Dozens of rare wildlife species, including the ocelot, jaguarundi and aplomado falcon, make their homes in this region of Texas, as do hundreds of species of migratory birds and butterflies. The area is also within historic jaguar habitat.

“The administration’s latest actions spotlight their willingness to gamble with our country’s natural heritage and environmental health,” said Bryan Bird, Southwest program director for Defenders of Wildlife. “Ignoring environmental and public-safety laws puts wildlife and borderland communities in the region at unnecessary risk and denies the public due process. We will do whatever it takes to fight these reckless decisions and to protect the Lower Rio Grande Valley for future generations.”

Today’s lawsuit states that the waiver authority, granted in 2006, expired years ago and is an unconstitutional delegation of power to the department. The waiver authority applied to border-wall construction under the 2006 Secure Fence Act, which required the agency to build hundreds of miles of border barriers. That mandate was met several years ago, with the department using REAL ID authority five times to waive more than 35 laws on 625 miles of border-wall and barrier construction.

Last week’s border-wall waivers were issued in the middle of a public comment period that remains open until Nov. 6. So far more than 9,000 people have said they oppose the plan. U.S. Customs and Border Protection opened the comment period after the Center and 42 groups requested public input and increased transparency.

Beyond jeopardizing wildlife, endangered species and public lands, the U.S.-Mexico border wall is part of a larger strategy of ongoing border militarization that damages human rights, civil liberties, native lands, local businesses and international relations.

The border wall impedes the natural migrations of people and wildlife that are essential to healthy diversity.
Maps by Kara Clauser, Center for Biological Diversity. These maps are available for media use.
 

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With over 1.8 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit Newsroom.Defenders.org and follow us on Twitter @DefendersNews.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund was founded in 1979 to protect the lives and advance the interests of animals through the legal system. To accomplish this mission, the Animal Legal Defense Fund files high-impact lawsuits to protect animals from harm; provides free legal assistance and training to prosecutors to assure that animal abusers are punished for their crimes; supports tough animal protection legislation and fights harmful legislation; and provides resources and opportunities to law students and professionals to advance the emerging field of animal law. For more information, please visit aldf.org.

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Rebuilding Stronger: National Wildlife Federation Outlines 12 Recommendations to Protect America from Hurricanes, Worsening Extreme Storms

For Immediate Release, September 27, 2018

Contact: Mike Saccone, National Wildlife Federation, SacconeM@NWF.org, 202-797-6634 

WASHINGTON, DC (October 3, 2018) — In the wake of yet another record-breaking hurricane, the National Wildlife Federation urged Congress to act on a series of urgent, comprehensive steps to prepare America for rising oceans and worsening storms. Rebuilding Stronger: 12 Priority Policies to Better Protect our Nation from Extreme Storms documents lessons learned from Hurricane Florence, which dumped up to 36 inches of rain in parts of North Carolina and about nine trillion gallons of water total on the Carolinas. The storm took more than 40 lives, cut off power for hundreds of thousands, and polluted rivers with spills from coal ash and pig waste lagoons.

“America needs a national commitment to protecting communities from the staggering destruction of extreme storms, like Hurricane Florence. Our communities and wildlife are at-risk because of decades of inaction, but we have highlighted concrete ways Congress can safeguard communities, protect wildlife, promote resilience and adapt to worsening storms, exacerbated by climate change,” said Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “We’re asking Congress not just to fund damage repair for this storm, but to take a series of low-cost or even cost-saving steps to better prepare communities across America for future storms.”

Rebuilding Stronger recommends that Congress:

Prioritize Natural Infrastructure Solutions for Hazard Risk Reduction
Reform the National Flood Insurance Program
Increase Investment in Resilience and “Pre-sponse”  
Reinstate the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard
Ensure Clean Water Act Safeguards Protect Existing Wetlands, Waterways, and Natural Floodplains
Ensure Meaningful Public Input and Environmental Review 
Improve Stormwater Management 
Address Dangerous and Outdated Infrastructure 
Ensure Climate-Resilient Siting and Design of Toxic Pollutant Storage Facilities
Ensure Climate-Resilient Siting, Design, and Management of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations.
Ensure Full Funding for Farm Bill Conservation Programs
Advance Climate and Clean Energy Solutions

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Lawsuit Challenges Tennessee Valley Authority’s Attack on Solar Energy in South

BIRMINGHAM, AL (September 6, 2018) — Five climate and energy-conservation groups today sued the Tennessee Valley Authority for imposing discriminatory electricity rates that discourage homeowners and businesses from investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Today’s lawsuit, filed in the Northern District of Alabama, notes that the utility’s new fixed “grid-access charge” will, for the first time, require its customers to pay a mandatory electricity fee regardless of their energy usage. Such fixed fees make rooftop solar less cost-effective.

The utility is also reducing electricity rates for large businesses. This move encourages companies to continue relying on its fossil fuel-powered energy rather than investing in distributed solar. The new rates also cut costs for the biggest energy users, discouraging efficiency.

The utility’s board of directors, with a majority appointed by President Trump, has now given final approval to all of these rate changes.

“TVA’s outrageous new rates penalize people working hard to save energy and money while rewarding big companies that run up huge electricity bills,” said Howard Crystal, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “This perverse plan forces customers to prop up dirty, outmoded power plants instead of transitioning to renewable power. We desperately need clean-energy progress and efficiency investments to protect our communities and the environment.”

As detailed in today’s lawsuit, the utility has failed to disclose the environmental impacts of these rate changes, in violation of federal law. The new rates will inevitably result in more energy generated by power plants that run on fossil fuels — creating unnecessary pollution and worsening the climate crisis. TVA must address the damage the new rates will cause in an environmental impact statement.

“TVA continues to lose its leadership position on renewable energy and energy efficiency. TVA’s rate changes are about one thing and one thing only,” said Daniel Tait, technical director for Energy Alabama. “Killing energy efficiency and renewable energy to protect its monopoly stranglehold on regular folks.”

“Clean, renewable energy like rooftop solar represents a tremendous opportunity in Alabama to create new jobs, generate homegrown energy, save customers and businesses money, and reduce impacts on human health,” said Gasp Executive Director Michael Hansen. “TVA’s so-called ‘grid access charge’ will disincentivize solar energy and all its benefits.”

“The TVA’s notoriously high bills already force working families and low-income households to choose between feeding their families and keeping the lights on,” said Damon Moglen, senior strategic advisor with Friends of the Earth. “Now customers are being forced to bolster the highly polluting fossil fuel industry by paying even more for their electric bills. We must end the TVA’s disastrous and unfair practices and transition to a clean energy system that is accessible and affordable to everyone.”

“TVA’s move to increase fixed fees on monthly bills is intended to undercut customers’ ability to control energy costs through energy efficiency and solar investments,” said Dr. Stephen A. Smith, executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “TVA is trying to mislead people by talking about their ‘low rates’ but energy consumers don’t pay rates, they pay bills, which are calculated as a rate times consumption plus fixed fees. Customers in the TVA service territory have some of the highest bills in the United States. The devious ‘grid access charge’ will only accelerate the high-bills problem by increasing fixed fees and stifling efforts to control electric consumption by families and small businesses, leading to higher costs and more pollution. This legal action seeks to educate people about what is happening to them each and every month.”

TVA is a federally owned corporation and the nation’s largest public power provider. It generates electricity for more than 9 million customers in Tennessee, northern Alabama, northeastern Mississippi, southwestern Kentucky, and portions of northern Georgia, western North Carolina and southwestern Virginia.

 

Contacts:

Erin Jensen, Friends of the Earth U.S., (202) 222-0722, ejensen@foe.org
Howard Crystal, Center for Biological Diversity, (202) 809-6926, hcrystal@biologicaldiversity.org
Daniel Tait, Energy Alabama, (256) 812-1431, dtait@alcse.org
Michael Hansen, Gasp, (205) 746-4666, michael@gaspgroup.org 
Jennifer Rennicks, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, 865-235-1448, Jennifer@cleanenergy.org

 
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340 Organizations Call on Trump Administration to Abandon Rushed Rewrite of National Environmental Policy Act

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

August 21, 2018
Contact: Phil LaRue, Earthjustice, 202-667-4500 x 4317, plarue@earthjustice.org

WASHINGTON, DC (August 21, 2018) – More than 340 public interest organizations from across the country formally submitted comments on Friday urging the White House Council on Environmental Quality to abandon its reckless and unprecedented attempts to rewrite the implementing procedures of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

The Act, written partly in response to 1960s highway revolts protesting the destruction of communities and ecosystems, has long been considered a bipartisan core of American environmental law. It passed the Senate unanimously when first considered.

Raul Garcia, Earthjustice Senior Legislative Counsel, issued the following statement:

“The National Environmental Policy Act was written in response to some of the most significant environmental and civil rights issues in modern history. And yet here, in the middle of August, with limited opportunity for public input at a time when millions of Americans are on vacation, the Trump administration appears to be embarking on a sweeping rewrite of the law. Simply put, it’s unacceptable that the administration could roll back the core protections this law affords without seriously listening to the voices of all Americans.

“Instead of persisting with this sham of a rule-making process, let’s work together to strengthen environmental protections for all communities.”

A copy of the coalition’s comments is available HERE.

 
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Federal court throws out key permit for Atlantic Coast Pipeline

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday threw out the National Park Service’s permit for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline in a case argued by SELC on behalf of the Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, and the Virginia Wilderness Committee. The court also issued its opinion regarding a Fish and Wildlife permit that it vacated earlier.

“This is an example of what happens when dangerous projects are pushed through based on politics rather than science,” said SELC Senior Attorney D.J. Gerken. “This pipeline project was flawed from the start and Dominion and Duke’s pressure tactics to avoid laws that protect our public lands, water, and wildlife are now coming to light.”

The ruling entered by a panel of three judges means that Dominion no longer has the permit needed to drill under the Blue Ridge Parkway. The Blue Ridge Parkway weaves through some of the most scenic terrain in Virginia and North Carolina.

Now, if pipeline developers continue construction on the 600-mile route from West Virginia, through Virginia and into North Carolina, they will be operating without two crucial federal permits.

“Given the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s recent decision to stop construction based on an invalid right of way permit in the case of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, FERC should immediately halt all construction on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline,” said SELC Senior Attorney Greg Buppert. “It’s time to pause and take a look at this project for what it is, an unnecessary pipeline that’s being pushed through to benefit Dominion Energy, not the people of Virginia and North Carolina. ”

SELC is calling on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to halt all construction along the ACP route given it no longer possesses a right-of-way permit from the National Park Service.

It has become clear in recent hearings at the State Corporation Commission that Dominion has never even conducted a study as to whether the pipeline is needed in Virginia. And Dominion’s claims of energy savings are bogus; Virginians will pay $2 billion more for the pipeline than it would if the utility used existing pipelines.

This May, the same three-judge panel found that the United States Fish and Wildlife Service’s approval for the project did not comport with the law. The initial order stated that the agency’s limits for harming endangered species were so vague that they undermined the objectives of the Endangered Species Act.

There are other permits in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals under challenge for inadequacy to protect land, water, and wildlife in the path of this risky and unnecessary project.

To learn more about the risks of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline go to inthepath.org.

 

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House Greenlights $5 Billion for 200 Miles of Destructive Border Wall, Enforcement

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

July 18, 2018
Contact: Paulo Lopes, (202) 849-8398, plopes@biologicaldiversity.org

WASHINGTON, DC (July 18, 2018) – A new House Republican spending bill includes more than $5 billion for border enforcement and new border-wall construction along the U.S.-Mexico border, slicing through some of the most biologically diverse regions in North America.

The House Appropriations Committee bill would fund more than 200 additional miles of border wall on public and private lands without any meaningful environmental review. The Senate companion bill, S. 3109, cleared the Senate Appropriations Committee last month and included $1.6 billion for approximately 65 additional miles of border wall.

“House Republicans just wrote an enormous check for Trump’s plan to rip the borderlands in two,” said Paulo Lopes of the Center for Biological Diversity. “They’re willing to wall off our national parks and wildlife refuges, divide communities, seize private property and destroy endangered wildlife habitat to avoid another Trump tantrum.”

Compared to the Senate bill, the House bill triples the length of new border wall and allows construction anywhere along the border. That puts Big Bend National Park, Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, the National Butterfly Center and other cherished places at risk.

New border walls would cut through communities and private land seized from landowners by the government via eminent domain. Endangered and threatened species along the southern border include the jaguar, Mexican gray wolf and ocelot, as well as a host of migratory birds.

Since January 2017 Congress has authorized $2.4 billion in border enforcement, of which $1.7 billion was allocated for walls along the U.S.-Mexico border. These funds pay for approximately 73 miles of new border wall, about 20 miles of it currently under construction in New Mexico. The Trump administration waived dozens of environmental laws to speed border-wall construction, while also embracing harsh measures against immigrants and refugees such as the family separation policy.

“It’s disturbing that House Republicans are pushing Trump’s ridiculous demands while doing nothing to reunite refugee children with their families,” Lopes said. “This construction will destroy some of the most breathtaking places and important wildlife habitat in the borderlands. It’s an enormous, appallingly harmful waste of money.”

The Center filed the first lawsuit against Trump’s border wall in April 2017 and recently appealed a ruling in a separate lawsuit that challenges the Trump administration’s waiver of dozens of environmental laws to replace border walls near San Diego. The Center also sued the Trump administration to challenge its waiver ignoring 25 laws to speed construction of the border wall in New Mexico. The administration is expected to ignore these same laws ― which include the Endangered Species Act, Safe Drinking Water Act and National Historic Preservation Act ― to rush border-wall construction.

Beyond jeopardizing wildlife, endangered species and public lands, the U.S.-Mexico border wall is part of a larger strategy of ongoing border militarization that damages human rights, civil liberties, native lands, local businesses and international relations. The border wall impedes the natural migrations of people and wildlife that are essential to healthy diversity.

 
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
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