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Attorney General Josh Stein Sues Over Trump Administration’s Rollback of Endangered Species Protections

For Immediate Release:
Wednesday, September 25, 2019

(RALEIGH) Attorney General Josh Stein today filed a lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s rollback of the Endangered Species Act, arguing that three new rules are unlawful and undermine the key requirements of the law. In North Carolina, 64 plant and animal species are listed as endangered or threatened under the Act.

“Protecting North Carolina’s environment also means protecting our state’s plants and animals and their habitats. The Endangered Species Act is critical to those efforts,” said Attorney General Josh Stein. “I’m suing the administration because its actions are illegal and would put endangered and threatened species at risk of extinction.”

For more than 45 years, the Endangered Species Act has protected thousands of iconic and threatened species, including the bald eagle, California condor, grizzly bear, and humpback whale. However, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service’s decision to finalize three rules would dramatically weaken current protections and reduce federal enforcement and consultation, putting these endangered species and their habitats at risk of extinction.

In their lawsuit, the coalition of 18 attorneys general challenge that the rules are arbitrary and capricious under the Administrative Procedure Act, unauthorized under the Endangered Species Act, and unlawful under the National Environmental Policy Act. They raise concern that the federal government’s actions would:

  • Inject economic considerations into the Endangered Species Act’s science-driven, species focused analyses;
  • Restrict the circumstances under which species can be listed as threatened;
  • Expand the Act’s narrow exemptions for designating critical habitats and limit the circumstances under which a habitat would be designated, especially where climate changes poses a threat;
  • Reduce consultation and analyses required before federal agency action;
  • Radically depart from the longstanding, conservation-based agency policy and practice of providing the same level of protection to threatened species afforded to endangered species, which is necessary to prevent a species from becoming endangered;
  • Push the responsibility for protecting imperiled species and habitats onto the state, detracting from the states’ efforts to carry out their own programs and imposing significant costs; and
  • Exclude analysis of and public input on the rules’ significant environmental impacts.

Attorney General Stein is joined in filing this lawsuit by the Attorneys General of California, Massachusetts, Maryland, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia and the city of New York.

A copy of the lawsuit is available here.

Contact:
Laura Brewer (919) 716-6484

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