U.S. Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), top Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee, in a letter today, urged Sylvia Mathews Burwell, Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), to reject a rule that would limit economic analysis required under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) for critical habitat designations. The rule was proposed by the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and is currently being reviewed by OMB.
"This proposed rule requires an approach that limits the public's understanding of the full costs of a critical habitat designation, and I find that insulting and wrong," said Vitter. "Not only would this circumvent full economic analysis, but the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service would clearly discount the financial hardships that will burden private property owners and state and local governments."
Today's letter follows up on a February 1st letter signed by twenty-three senators asking FWS and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to change the proposal to require a full accounting of the cost of an endangered species.
Text of today's letter is below.
June 24, 2013
Honorable Sylvia Mathews Burwell
The Office of Management and Budget
725 17th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20503
Dear Director Burwell,
It is my understanding that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is currently reviewing a rule proposed by the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) related to the economic impact of designating critical habitat for endangered and threatened wildlife. The rule proposed by those agencies in August 24, 2012 limits the type of economic analysis that is required for critical habitat designations. It will not provide the public with an adequate understanding of the full costs of a critical habitat designation, including those costs associated with the listing, and I urge you to reject that approach.
On February 1, 2013, twenty-three senators contacted the FWS and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to make clear that the proposal should be changed to require a full accounting of the cost of an endangered species. Because of sue and settle agreements with radical environmental groups, listing determinations will be made on hundreds of species and millions of acres will be designated as critical habitat. At a minimum, the agencies making those determinations should be transparent about the costs of such listings and designations. The approach that is advocated in the August proposal falls short of the goal of transparency.
The August proposal by the agencies adopts an incremental approach to economic impact analyses of critical habitat designations. Such an approach requires a less thorough economic analysis by excluding the costs associated with the listing of a species. By ignoring the costs associated with a species' listing, the incremental approach fails to ensure that the economic hardships felt by private property owners and state governments are greatly discounted.
Rather than using an incremental approach, twenty-three member of the Senate requested the agencies use a more thorough method, known as the coextensive approach. I have attached a copy of that letter so that you can understand why it is so important for the final rule to use a coextensive approach. Doing so will ensure that both regulators and the public are aware of the true costs associated with designated critical habitat for an endangered species.
As the Ranking Member of the Committee that has oversight jurisdiction of the Endangered Species Act, I want to ensure that listing determinations and the costs associated with those determinations are made in as transparent a manner as possible. The approach advocated by the agencies in the August proposal is not transparent and avoids shedding light on the true costs of a species listing. I urge you to reject the incremental approach and ensure that the final rule requires comprehensive economic analysis.
Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works
cc: Sally Jewell, Secretary, U.S. Department of the Interior
Dan Ashe, Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, Acting NOAA Administrator