February 27, 2015 Articles

What Energy Lawyers Need to Know about the Endangered Species Act

The ESA is a potent tool for environmentalists seeking to derail energy projects.

By Michael A. Oropallo – February 27, 2015

The Endangered Species Act (ESA), signed into law in 1973 by President Nixon, was the culmination of a series of efforts to stave off the extinction of such high-profile species as the passenger pigeon, which became extinct 100 years ago. Congress, sportsmen, and the general public recognized the need to protect and preserve populations of species that were in peril. Though measures such as hunting seasons and bag limits were thought to be the only focus of protecting such species, in reality, more species have become extinct due to loss of habitat than any other cause. Even the passenger pigeon succumbed to extinction because of deforestation and loss of habitat that was paramount to its very existence. Thus, though the target species gets the attention of the general public as the primary focus of these wildlife laws, its habitat is often more crucial.

Today, the ESA is frequently used by environmentalists to oppose energy projects. In this article, I provide a brief summary of the ESA and how it can apply to projects that require federal funding, authorization, or action.

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