Monday, June 14, 2010

Delta fish rulings could affect endangered species law

Recent court rulings on Delta fish protection measures threaten to open the floodgates for lawsuits to weaken rules protecting endangered species. U.S. District Judge Oliver Wanger ruled in two Delta cases that pumping restrictions meant to protect endangered fish could be relaxed because federal scientists had not adequately justified them and because the government had not done separate studies on their effects. The decisions cheered water agencies and property rights advocates but alarmed environmentalists. Since the U.S. Supreme Court in 1978 ruled in favor of another fish — the snail darter, which was threatened by the Tennessee Valley Authority's plan to build a dam — the law has held that economic cost may not be balanced against the threat of extinction. Wanger did not contradict that principle, but he said federal regulators lacked adequate scientific evidence for their Delta pumping restrictions. And he said the government should have done an environmental impact study under the National Environmental Policy Act to look for alternatives and determine the impact on the "human environment." The Delta cases, Wanger ruled, are unlike the snail darter case because the regulations have affected human welfare by increasing unemployment, for example. "It's not just economics. It's talking about health and welfare," said Brandon Middleton, a lawyer for the libertarian Pacific Legal Foundation. Several government officials and lawyers said such studies are never done on endangered species rules, though they are often done on the projects on which the rules are applied...more

1 comment:

Animal Annie said...

It is not enough to base the rulings on whether or not they will lead to more unemployment, but to determine how much more unemployment they will cause, and to compare the loss created by unemployment to the loss created by allowing a species to become extint.