E&E News: House panel to review ESA bills

Michael Doyle, E&E News reporter
Published: Monday, July 17, 2017Rob Bishop. Photo credit: House Committee on Natural Resources/YouTube
House Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) is moving forward with several bills related to endangered species. House Natural Resources Committee /YouTube
The Endangered Species Act will come in for a spanking and a possible face-lift Wednesday as the House Natural Resources Committee holds a hearing on five ESA-related bills.
Authored by four Republicans and one rural Democrat, the individual measures pick away at several pieces of the 1973 law that’s outlasted many previous congressional forays.
This year’s ESA skeptics aren’t yet going for a wholesale repeal-and-replace effort.
Instead, the bills being reviewed Wednesday morning target specific areas that range from lowering lawyers’ fees and excluding non-native species from protections to requiring that cost be taken into account in listing decisions. Together, the bills reflect widespread antipathy among conservatives toward the law.
“It’s terribly flawed,” Rep. Rob Bishop, the Utah Republican who chairs the Natural Resources Committee, said in an interview.
Bishop added that he is still in the information-gathering stage, sorting through options for revising the law.
“If the Republican approach is ‘my way or the highway,’ then I don’t think they’ll be able to get Democratic support,” Rep. Jim Costa (D-Calif.), a member of the committee, said in an interview, adding that “a constructive approach on a bipartisan basis” works best.
The bills under review Wednesday are short; none is longer than four pages. In their own way, though, they could be far-reaching. A measure by Rep. Pete Olson (R-Texas) to take cost into account in ESA listing decisions, for instance, would reverse a cost-blind federal practice that has previously been upheld by the Supreme Court.
The Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA Fisheries would be allowed to decline to list species due to economic impacts under Olson’s bill. Currently, the federal agencies take cost into account when designating critical habitat for a listed species.
The bills include:
·         H.R. 1274, from Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.), to require making available to states affected by ESA determinations all data used in the federal decisionmaking, and to ensure use of state, local and tribal data.
·         H.R. 2603, from Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), to provide that non-native species in the United States shall not be treated as endangered or threatened under the ESA.
·         H.R. 3131, from Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-Mich.), to adjust the hourly rates awarded to lawyers in ESA-related litigation.
·         H.R. 424, from Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), to require the Interior Department to reissue final rules to delist the gray wolf as a protected species in the western Great Lakes and Wyoming.
·         H.R. 717, from Olson, to require review of the economic cost of adding a species as endangered or threatened, and removing certain listing deadlines that have been the focus of litigation.
Schedule: The hearing is Wednesday, July 19, at 10 a.m. in 1324 Longworth.
Witnesses: Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar; Fish and Wildlife Service Deputy Director Greg Sheehan; David Willms, policy director for Republican Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead; and attorney Kent Holsinger of Denver.