Today I testified as a minority witness before the House Committee on Natural Resources which was considering four bills to amend the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The bills would require the Department of Interior to publish more data about species listings on the internet, designate data submitted by state and local governments as the best available scientific evidence, require detailed accounting of attorneys fee awards and cap hourly fees recoverable under the ESA’s citizen suit provisions. I testified in opposition to each of the bills. I argued that one reason why Interior and the National Marine Fisheries Service have been subjected to so much litigation is because they have not been adequately funded to promptly carry out their statutory duties. Imposing additional unfunded mandates on them would only exacerbate this problem. I also noted that the attorneys fee shifting provisions of the ESA mirror those of the other major federal environmental statutes and that there is no reason to change them. A copy of my testimony and the testimony offered by other witnesses is available online at: http://naturalresources.house.gov/calendar/eventsingle.aspx?EventID=374401. Michael Bean, my former colleague at the Environmental Defense Fund who is now counselor to the assistant secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks at the Department of Interior, skillfully defended the agency’s implementation of the ESA.
Last week Anadarko Petroleum agreed with the federal government to a $5.15 billion settlement of environmental cleanup claims at more than 2,700 sites. The settlement is a result of Anadarko’s in 2006 purchase of Kerr-McGee, which tried to spin off most of its massive environmental liabilities into a titanium dioxide subsidiary called Tronox. Burdened with these liabilities, Tronox not surprisingly went bankrupt in 2009. Following the bankruptcy, EPA sued Anadarko for fradulently attempting to avoid the environmental liabilities that were spun off with Tronox. After a lengthy trial, EPA’s claim was upheld in federal bankruptcy court in New York with the judge holding in December 2013 that Anadarko was liable for between $5 and $14.2 billion in environmental claims. The $5.15 billion settlement is at the low end of this range, which sent Anadarko stock up 15 percent in one day. Lynn Cook & Daniel Gilbert, Anadarko Settlement Follows Years of Contamination, Wall St. J., April 7, 2014, at B3.
In response to pressure from Germany, the European Commission has agreed to relaxed planned restrictions on future subsidies to renewable energy. The change will enable Germany to enact a new renewaAlex Barker & Jeevan Vasagar, Financial Times, April 7, 2014, at 2.