WASHINGTON -- The statement below was issued today by Defenders of Wildlife in response to a bad ruling by the Supreme Court in an anti-environment, anti-public interest case pushed by Arizona developers and the Bush/Cheney administration, and supported by Gov. Napolitano's ADEQ.
The Supreme Court today issued a 5-4 decision in EPA v. Defenders of Wildlife, limiting the obligation of federal agencies under the Endangered Species Act to ensure that their actions do not jeopardize imperiled species. The majority held that the Endangered Species Act’s duty to consult applies only to discretionary actions. Today’s decision, while unfortunate, should apply only to a very narrow category of actions by federal agencies—actions compelled by the terms of another federal law—and should not be read as a broad abrogation of the authority of the Endangered Species Act.
We are very disappointed with the majority’s interpretation of the Endangered Species Act, which we think ignores the clear intention of Congress when they enacted the Endangered Species Act. The Act was intended by Congress as a clear, independent mandate for all federal agencies to ensure that their actions do not jeopardize endangered species or destroy their critical habitat.
As explained in Justice Stevens’ dissent, the Endangered Species Act works in harmony with other federal mandates and should not be trumped by other federal laws without the express direction of Congress. We are concerned that the Court’s decision, combined with the Bush administration’s clear history of undermining the effectiveness of the Endangered Species Act, could lead to additional extinctions of American wildlife—extinctions which the Act is intended to prevent. Today’s decision will also likely create unnecessary confusion in the lower courts regarding the scope of the Act, which historically has been applied to all federal actions that might harm endangered or threatened species.
“We are very disappointed in this narrow decision by the Supreme Court... on its impacts to... communities around the state,” US Rep. Grijavla (D-AZ) said in a statement.