« Law - Federal regulation reportedly imperils Hoosier tomato growers | Main | Indiana Decisions - Transfer list for week ending June 11, 2004 »

Friday, June 11, 2004

Law - Real estate development ruling from DC District Court

"Environmentalists Win Ruling in a Suit Against Developers," is the headline of this AP story today in the NY Times. The lead:

WASHINGTON, June 10 - A federal judge on Thursday temporarily halted the government's practice of assuring private landowners that they will not face unanticipated requirements for protecting endangered species after a development project is approved.

The ruling, by Judge Emmet G. Sullivan of Federal District Court for the District of Columbia, was hailed by environmentalists as a breakthrough and criticized by home builders as a threat to private development.

At least for the next six months, the ruling bars federal agencies from providing blanket assurances under the Clinton-era "no surprises" rule. The rule, adopted in 1998, has given home builders, timber and mining companies and other developers some immunity against unforeseen twists in providing protection for species.

Judge Sullivan said that as a result of the rule the "public has consistently been denied the opportunity'' to weigh in on decisions "likely to have significant effects on public resources."

His ruling came in a case brought by six organizations led by the Spirit of the Sage Council, a California group that represents American Indians and environmentalists. They challenged regulations of the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service, which protect endangered species.

Judge Sullivan gave the agencies until Dec. 10 to revise their regulations with more participation from the public.

The opinion does not appear currently to be available on the website of the District Court for the District of Columbia.

Another AP story, on the MSNBC site, has this:

WASHINGTON - Private builders were irate and environmentalists ecstatic after a federal judge suspended a Clinton-era rule on endangered species and ordered federal agencies to allow more public input.

The judge ruled Thursday that the Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service must revise what are known as the "no surprises" rule, which assured industry it wouldn’t face more requirements for protecting species once a federal permit is approved.

“Now, a permit isn’t worth the paper it’s written on,” said Duane Desiderio, a vice president of the National Association of Home Builders. He described the ruling as a serious setback for his industry, especially because most species whose survival is imperiled are found on private property and near developed areas.

“The underlying thrust of the ’no surprises’ rule is, a deal is a deal. This provision was intended to strike a balance: You can’t stop all development, but you need to protect species,” Desiderio said.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on June 11, 2004 11:47 AM
Posted to General Law Related