House Approves Legislation to Update ESA

On Tuesday, July 29, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 4315, the Endangered Species Transparency Act with a bipartisan vote of 233-190. This common sense legislation focuses on sensible and specific updates to the Endangered Species Act in the areas of data transparency and species recovery.

The legislation includes the following:

  • Require data used by federal agencies for ESA listing decisions to be made publicly available and accessible through the Internet, while respecting state data privacy laws and private property. (Sec. 2 reflects the text of H.R. 4315 as reported)
  • Require the federal government to disclose to affected states data used prior to an ESA listing decision and it would require the “best available scientific and commercial data” used by the federal government to incorporate data provided by states, tribes, and local county governments. (Sec. 3 reflects the text of H.R. 4317)
  • 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. (Sec. 4 reflects the text of H.R. 4316)
  • 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 per hour in most circumstances, including federal suits involving veterans, Social Security, and disability. But under the ESA, attorneys are being awarded huge sums, in many cases, at a rate much as $600 per hour. (Sec. 5 reflects the text of H.R. 4318)

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