Environment & Energy

Court Nixes Groups’ Endangered Species Suits, OKs State Case (3)

May 18, 2020, 6:34 PM; Updated: May 19, 2020, 1:19 AM

Environmental and animal advocacy groups haven’t shown they have legal standing to challenge the Trump administration’s revised Endangered Species Act regulations, but a lawsuit from a coalition of states can move forward, a federal court ruled Monday.

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California tossed a lawsuit from the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, and other groups, and a similar suit from the Animal Legal Defense Fund, but gave them 21 days to file an amended complaint with more information to support their claims that the regulations harm their members.

Defenders of Wildlife attorney Jason Rylander said the environmental coalition plans to do so.

“We’ll be turning to filing an amended complaint this week, and we’re confident that we’ll meet the requirement to move forward,” he told Bloomberg Law.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund attorney Cristina Stella said her group also plans to file an amended complaint.

In a late Monday order, the district court kept a related case from California, Maryland, Massachusetts, and several other states on track, rejecting the Trump administration’s bid to derail the challenge.

The three cases involve an August 2019 decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service to adopt new regulations for how the government protects threatened and endangered species.

The new rules change how the government designates critical habitat for at-risk plants and animals; ends a longtime practice of automatically extending the same protections to threatened species as to endangered species; and allows agencies to conduct some economic analysis of protections—though the agencies say costs won’t factor into their final decisions.


The environmental coalition filed suit shortly after the Trump administration adopted the new regulations last year.

The administration moved to dismiss the case, saying the groups hadn’t shown they’d face any concrete harms from the rules—a legal bar for filing a lawsuit.

Judge Jon S. Tigar noted that the groups had spelled out direct alleged harms in declarations from their members, but hadn’t included that information in the underlying complaint.

The complaint “fails to establish a concrete and particularized injury in fact with respect to Conservation Group Plaintiffs’ members,” Tigar wrote, adding that the groups also didn’t meet the bar for other categories of legal standing.

The Sierra Club is involved in the case. The group has received funding from Bloomberg Philanthropies, the charitable organization founded by Michael Bloomberg. Bloomberg Law is operated by entities controlled by Michael Bloomberg.

Tigar issued a similar order in the case brought by the Animal Legal Defense Fund.

State Case

But in the case from more than a dozen states, Tigar concluded the plaintiffs had adequately demonstrated that they had standing to pursue their claims.

“A review of State Plaintiffs’ complaint, however, reveals detailed allegations that demonstrate injury-in-fact, causation, and redressability with respect to both their substantive and procedural claims,” he wrote.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, a Democrat, praised the decision.

“We commend the court for moving this challenge onward and look forward to continuing our strong fight against these unlawful rules,” he said in a statement.

The cases are Ctr. for for Biological Diversity v. Bernhardt, N.D. Cal., No. 4:19-cv-05206, 5/18/20, Animal Legal Def. Fund v. Interior, N.D. Cal., No. 4:19-cv-06812, 5/18/20, and California v. Bernhardt, N.D. Cal., No. 4:19-cv-06013, 5/18/20.

(Additional reporting on developments in state case throughout.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Ellen M. Gilmer in Washington at egilmer@bloombergenvironment.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Gregory Henderson at ghenderson@bloombergindustry.com; Chuck McCutcheon at cmccutcheon@bloombergenvironment.com

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