Environment

In a decision difficult to understand without context the Supreme Court held that “critical habitat” under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) must also be habitat. In Weyerhaeuser Co. v. United State Fish and Wildlife Service the Court also held a federal court may review an agency decision not to exclude an area from critical habitat because of the economic impact. The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) filed an amicus brief on the latter issue arguing in favor of the result the Court reached.

The United State Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) listed the dusky gopher frog as an endangered species. It designated as its “critical habitat” a site called Unit 1 in Louisiana owned or leased by Weyerhaeuser Company, a timber company. The frog hasn’t been seen at this location since 1965. As of today Unit 1 has all of the features the frog needs to survive except “open-canopy forests,” which the Services claims can be restored with “reasonable effort.”

Weyerhaeuser argued Unit 1 could not be a “critical habitat” for the frog because it could not survive without an open-canopy forests. The Fifth Circuit disagreed holding that the definition of critical habitat contains no “habitability requirement.”

The Supreme Court held unanimously that “critical habitat” must be habitat. The ESA states that when the Secretary lists a species as endangered he or she must also “designate any habitat of such species which is then considered to be critical habitat.”

While the public benefits of electric vehicles are becoming increasingly clear, they continue to represent only a small percentage—a little over 1 percent—of new vehicle annual sales in the United States. State legislatures have numerous strategies at their disposal they can deploy to help improve the marketplace for electric vehicles, from helping to expand electric vehicle charging access to encouraging the electrification of public fleets. California and New Hampshire are two states at different stages in their efforts to advance the electric vehicle marketplace. CSG spoke recently with two legislators who have been responsible for enacting related measures in those states.

CSG Midwest
A bipartisan deal on how to manage the nation’s water resources has potentially big implications for the Great Lakes and the region’s states — authorization of a nearly $1 billion project at the Soo Locks, movement on a plan to stop Asian carp, and more money to protect drinking water.
Signed into law in October, the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) also establishes new programs to research the eradication of zebra mussels and Asian carp and to explore technologies that prevent harmful algal blooms in the Great Lakes.

California recently became the first state to restrict the distribution of plastic drinking straws in order to reduce plastic pollution and ocean waste.

The law, signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in September, will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2019. Full-service restaurants will be prohibited from providing single-use plastic straws to consumers unless the consumer requests a straw. In bars and restaurants across the country, plastic straws have become a popular target among those aiming to reduce waste.

CSG Midwest
A trio of recently enacted bills in Michigan aims to help legislators take a longer, systematic view of how to meet the state’s infrastructure needs. According to Gov. Rick Snyder, his state is the first in the nation to implement this type of coordinated effort to manage drinking water, wastewater, stormwater, transportation and private utilities.
CSG Midwest
Last fall, nine Lake Erie experts identified specific strategies that they viewed as most important to reducing phosphorus runoff and preventing harmful algal blooms in the lake’s western basin. As of early June, Ohio legislators were moving toward passage of a bill backing those scientists’ findings with state dollars.
“That was the blueprint — use those evidence-based strategies and then target the funds to critical areas in the sub-watersheds [of the western basin],” says Rep. Steven Arndt. Ohio admittedly has a long way to go to reach its target — a 40 percent reduction in phosphorus loads by 2025. That is the amount specified in binational agreements between the United States and Canada and among the governments of Michigan, Ohio and Ontario.
CSG Midwest
As part of what state officials say is the strictest set of lead and copper standards in the nation, Michigan will require all of the state’s public water systems to replace their lead service lines. Starting in 2021, the Detroit Free Press reports, each public water system must replace, on average, 5 percent of its lead service pipes per year over a 20-year period, with water customers paying for most of the estimated $2.5 billion price tag.

In Knick v. Township of Scott the Supreme Court will decide whether to overturn Williamson County Regional Planning Commission v. Hamilton Bank of Johnson City (1985). In that case the Court held that before a takings claim may be brought in federal court, landowners must comply with state law procedures and remedies enacted to provide just compensation. The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) amicus brief urges the Court to keep Williamson County.

The Township of Scott adopted an ordinance requiring cemeteries, whether public or private, to be free and open and accessible to the public during the day. Code enforcement could enter any property to determine the “existence and location” of a cemetery.

Single-use plastic straws have recently come under fire, much like single-use plastic shopping bags and plastic microbeads. This year, Seattle became the largest U.S. city to ban the use of plastic straws and...

Knick v. Township of Scott involves a common theme before the Supreme Court. One party is asking it to overturn long-standing Supreme Court precedent. Unfortunately for states and local governments the precedent on the chopping block arises in the property rights context (where the more conservative Supreme Court tends to favor property owners) and is generally considered favorable to states and local governments.  

The Township of Scott adopted an ordinance requiring cemeteries, whether public or private, to be free and open and accessible to the public during the day. Code enforcement could enter any property to determine the “existence and location” of a cemetery.

The Constitution’s Takings Clause states that “private property [shall not] be taken for public use, without just compensation.” Rose Mary Knick sued the county in federal (rather than state) court claiming the ordinance was invalid per the Takings Clause after code enforcement went onto her property without a warrant looking for a cemetery.

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