Global Climate Change Analysis

Theresa Nolan-Range

Author Note:

This paper was prepared for the Global Climate Change class, taught by Professors Wieskel, Moomaw, and Zevitas, at Harvard University Extension School.

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Global climate change has created new areas as well as a new way for some groups to shift public money into private pockets, through litigation. In December of 2008, responding to a lawsuit brought by the Natural Resource Defense Fund and other groups citing the Environmental Protection Act in 1969 as a basis for the claim, a California court –backed by the Bush administration- ruled that farmers in Firebaugh and the Central Valley of California were to be shut off from the stream of water that naturally flowed to them and irrigated more than one million acres of farms. The call was to redirect more than 150 billion gallons of water per year to the San Joaquin Delta. The reason, said the plaintiff’s, was that the Delta Smelt, listed in the referenced Act of 1969 as a protected species, were getting caught up in the irrigation lines on the farms. The court, having reviewed the congressional document that protected this species along with 129 others, ruled that in absence of congressional action, the group must be supported to stop the extinction of this fish.

Economic Impact: Where the impact initially affected a small group of farmers, due to the simultaneous drought conditions (that would follow for the next several years) and the economic recession, it has contributed to effectively dry up more than 750,000 acres of farmland, including ¼ of the nation’s fruits and vegetables and 90% of the nation’s almond supply. Economically, the impact would surpass $1billion and the unemployment would exceed 40% in these areas.

Policy and Action: Where the Environmental Protection Act of 1969 had been grown out of the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill, in order to protect the devastation of species near extinction from industry and individuals, many feared this law was being used to purposely drain funds from the taxpayers and pay exorbitant amounts to environmental groups and their attorneys.

Farmers and citizens stormed congressional offices and eventually Congress held an oversight hearing on December 06, 2011 to review the effectiveness of the act and hear testimony regarding the proposed criminal offenses. The Honorable Doc Hastings, Representative from the State of Washington, made the opening statement and offered among other things that regulation had seemed to produce little to no protection of the very species it was designed to protect. Further, that has cost workers their jobs, taxpayers their money, and American’s their food.

Some of the opponents to the ruling (and also challenging the original bill) were economists, and financial experts, such as Rob Rivett, president of the Pacific Legal Foundation. Rivett argued, “Instead of stimulating jobs, federal environmental officials are turning recession into depression, and stimulating economic hardship for business, farms, and families (Washington Times).” Recent legislation passed by Congress that was to restore water flow had failed to be acted upon. Another round of legislation-HR 3964- has made its way through the House and is pending further action by the Senate. The consequences will be dire if not immediately remedied.

Objectives: To provide a thorough background and overview of the Environmental Protection Agency’s intent with the Endangered Species Act of 1969, as well as an effective hind-sight view of whether or not those intentions were fulfilled through the implementation of this act; or, if conversely, there has been significant economic and personal damage inflected instead, on the American farmers, citizens, and other groups, through the enforcement of this act. Included will be commentary and evidence from witnesses regarding an exposé of fraudulent parties to the lawsuits accused of syphoning funds from the taxpayers via the legal process. Views will be presented from environmental groups, agricultural farmers and industry representatives, as well as associated attorneys and political groups, including those from the oversight committee.

 

Annotated Bibliography:

Bishop, Robert. Chairman, Natural Resources Committee, United States House of Representatives. H.R. 3964, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Valley Emergency Water Delivery Act, introduced by the Republican California delegation, addresses the emergency drought in California by restoring some water. Prior legislation passed was not acted upon and the situation is now dire. The valley is turning quickly into a dust bowl. This legislation seeks reparative actions and detailed steps for quick recovery and associated funding for the farms and the communities. Retrieved from: http://naturalresources.house.gov/legislation/hr3964/

Bishop, Robert. Chairman, Natural Resources Committee, United States House of Representatives. Excessive litigation has become one of the greatest obstacles to the success of the ESA. Instead of focusing on recovering endangered species, groups are using the ESA to file hundreds of lawsuits against the government. More than $21Million has been paid out in attorney fees alone. In response, agencies have to spend time and financial resources addressing those lawsuits instead of species recovery. Retrieved from: http://naturalresources.house.gov/esa/

Hastings, Richard Norman. U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Natural Resources. (2011, December). Oversight Hearing on “The Endangered Species Act: How Litigation is Costing jobs and Impending True Recovery Efforts.” (2011, December) Retrieved from: http://naturalresources.house.gov/calendar/eventsingle.aspx?EventID=270315 The focus of the hearing was how litigation has driven the ESA to the detriment of species and taxpayers. Discovery of facts and potential fraud are discussed.

Library of Congress. (2014) H.R.3964 Latest Title: Sacramento-San Joaquin Valley Emergency Water Delivery Act Sponsor: Rep Valadao, David G. Retrieved from:   http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d113:H.R.3964: This is the official website of the bill as presented, with sponsor information, updates, and current status. The bill has been placed on the Senate general calendar for vote.

Merry, Mitch. Endangered Species Coalition. “More than 120,000 Tell Congress to Oppose Doc Hastings Plan…” (2014, June) A look at what the opposition to Doc Hastings oversight rule would do, including making politicians in charge of conservancy instead of environmentalists (they claim). Also, they say it would “severely limit the ability of ordinary citizens to participate in the public process by putting road blocks in between them and the courts.” Retrieved from: http://www.endangered.org/more-than-120000-tell-congress-to-oppose-doc-hastings-plan-to-weaken-the-endangered-species-act/

National Environmental Protection Agency. Office of Energy and Compliance. (2013, December) Federal Register /Vol. 78, No. 240/Friday, December 13, 2013/Notices. The Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Marine Fisheries Service, and California Department of Water Resources are jointly preparing an EIS/Environmental Impact Report that analyzes the potential environmental impacts of the proposed Bay Delta Conservation Plan for restoring and protecting water supply reliability, water quality, and ecosystem health. This will be analyzed to discover the future of the Bay and San Joaquin Deltas. Retrieved from: http://www.energy.gov/nepa/eis-0515-bay-delta-conservation-plan-sacramento-san-joaquin-delta-california

Schlanger, Zoe. (2015, April 06). California Farmers Rely on Oil Wastewater to Weather Drought. Newsweek. Retrieved from: http://www.newsweek.com/california-farmers-rely-oil-wastewater-weather-drought-319648 Discussion on what farmers are doing to find their own alternatives to losing their farms during federally mandated restrictions.

United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)/NASS Crop Year 2013 Report. California Department of Food and Agriculture. http://www.cdfa.ca.gov/statistics/ California’s agricultural abundance includes more than 400 commodities. The state produces nearly half of US-grown fruits, nuts and vegetables. Across the nation, US consumers regularly purchase several crops produced solely in California.

United States Environmental Protection Agency. Endangered Species Act. (1973). Retrieved from: http://www2.epa.gov/laws-regulations/summary-endangered-species-act. A full text document available in .pdf format for review. This bill was the original protection act that arose after public outcry over massive ecological damage from the Santa Barbara oil spill in 1969. The law requires federal agencies, in consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and/or the NOAA Fisheries Service, to ensure that actions they authorize, fund, or carry out are not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any listed species or result in the destruction or adverse modification of designated critical habitat of such species. The law also prohibits any action that causes a “taking” of any listed species of endangered fish or wildlife. Likewise, import, export, interstate, and foreign commerce of listed species are all generally prohibited.

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