Endangered Species Act

Support Modernization and Reform of the Endangered Species Act

 

Issue

When it was originally enacted in 1973, the authors of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) envisioned a law to protect species believed to be on the brink of extinction. At that time, 109 species were listed for protection. Today, there are nearly 2,000 species that are designated as either threatened or endangered under the ESA, with an additional 250 species considered as “Candidates” for listing.

Once a species is listed, ESA compliance can seriously impact the ability of electric cooperatives to site and maintain power lines. When a protected species or its habitat is adversely affected by an activity such as building transmission lines, it is a “taking” which will require an incidental take permit and a habitat conservation plan. Therefore, ESA listings can adversely affect essential economic activities in parts of rural America. Also, the ESA has been among the most contentious environmental laws because its substantive provisions can affect the use of both federal and non-federal lands and resources.

Electric cooperatives seek to make the ESA more efficient, effective, and less costly, with the goal of finding a balance that accommodates essential economic activities. To ensure fair and sensible application of the Act, scientific information must be thorough, balanced and based on scientific standards and impartial peer review. As true stewards of the land, electric cooperatives support solutions that balance economic growth and the preservation of native species.

 

NRECA Position

NRECA supports congressional efforts to review, update and modernize the Endangered Species Act for the 21st Century.

 

NRECA supports legislation similar to the effort from 2014 that would require greater transparency and reduce incentives for abuse of the ESA by:

  • requiring data used by federal agencies for ESA listing decisions be made publicly available on the Internet;
  • requiring annual reporting and tracking of ESA litigation costs, including attorneys’ fees;
  • requiring the federal government to disclose to affected states all data used prior to a listing or proposed ESA listing decision; and
  • capping hourly fees paid to attorneys that prevail in cases filed under ESA.