Last week, the United States House of Representatives vote on the Endangered Species Act (ESA) passed 219 to 190. HR 4315 will now go to the Senate and the White House has said that it will veto the bill.
In addition to requiring federal agencies to make ESA decisions publicly available while respecting while respecting state data privacy laws and private property, HR 4315 would:
- Require the federal government to disclose to affected states data used prior to an ESA listing decision, and require the federal government’s “best available scientific and commercial data” to incorporate data provided by states, tribes, and local county governments.
- Require the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to track, report to Congress, and make available online the federal taxpayer funds used to respond to ESA lawsuits, the number of employees dedicated to ESA litigation, and attorneys’ fees awarded in the course of ESA litigation and settlement agreements.
- Prioritize species protection and protect taxpayer dollars by placing reasonable caps on attorneys’ fees to make the ESA consistent with existing federal law. For example, the federal government limits the prevailing attorneys’ fees to $125/hr in most circumstances, including federal suits involving veterans, Social Security, and disability, supporters said. But under the ESA, attorneys are being awarded huge sums, in many cases, at a rate much as $600/hr, they indicated.