A group of attorneys general representing 17 states, the District of Columbia and New York City filed a lawsuit Wednesday challenging Trump administration changes to the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, argues that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service's decision last month to finalize rules dealing with adding or removing species from ESA's protections -- a move that could have significant effects on the oil and natural gas industry -- was unlawful.
"As we face the unprecedented threat of a climate emergency, now is the time to strengthen our planet’s biodiversity, not to destroy it," said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. "The only thing we want to see extinct are the beastly policies of the Trump Administration putting our ecosystems in critical danger. We’re coming out swinging to defend this consequential law -- humankind and the species with whom we share this planet depend on it."
In the lawsuit, the coalition challenges the rules as arbitrary and capricious under the Administrative Procedure Act, unauthorized under the Endangered Species Act and unlawful under the National Environmental Policy Act.
The lawsuit comes on the heels of another that was filed by environmental groups seeking to block the administration's changes to the ESA.
The revisions, according to the U.S. Department of Interior (DOI), would not alter ESA's direction that determinations to add or remove a species from the lists of threatened or endangered species be based solely on the best available scientific and commercial information. At the same time, the revisions "clarify that the standards for delisting and reclassification of a species consider the same five statutory factors as the listing of a species in the first place," DOI said.
Critics of the changes to ESA argued that it was another attempt by the Trump administration to remove climate change from the considerations of regulatory agencies.
The environmental groups argued that the Trump administration failed to publicly disclose and analyze the harms and impacts of the rules, in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act, and included changes in the final rules that were never made public and were not subject to public comment. The administration also violated the language and purpose of the ESA "by unreasonably changing requirements for compliance with Section 7, which requires federal agencies to ensure that actions they authorize, fund, or carry out do not jeopardize the existence of any species listed, or destroy or adversely modify designated critical habitat of any listed species," the groups said.
Plaintiffs in the case also include California, Massachusetts, Maryland, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington state.