In August 2016, the D.C. Circuit held that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) met its obligations under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) but failed to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) when it issued an Incidental Take Permit (ITP) for the endangered Indiana bat. On the one hand, the D.C. Circuit concluded that FWS did not need to ensure that the proposed project’s minimization and mitigation efforts were “the maximum that can be practically implemented” in order to satisfy the ESA. On the other hand, the D.C. Circuit held that FWS violated NEPA by failing to consider a reasonable range of alternatives.
Under the administrative law principle of Chevron deference, if the language of a statute is ambiguous, a court must defer to the agency’s interpretation of that language if the agency’s interpretation is reasonable. In Michigan v. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Supreme Court evaluated an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) decision to ignore costs when deciding whether regulation of power plants under the Clean Air Act (CAA) is “appropriate and necessary.”
Native American tribes in the Northwest once centered entire societies around the Columbia River, living on its shores and fishing salmon from its waters. Beginning in the 1930s, however, the United States built a series of hydroelectric dams on the river, flooding tribal villages and destroying traditional tribal access to the river for fishing. Despite promises, these tribes were never compensated properly for their losses.
In People v. Rinehart, the California Supreme Court unanimously upheld a gold miner’s criminal conviction for using a suction dredge to mine the riverbed of a waterway on federal land in violation of a state moratorium on that mining method. The court reversed the California Court of Appeal’s holding that the federal Mining Act of 1872 (Mining Act) preempts state regulations that render mining on federal land “commercially impracticable.”