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Alaska Oil & Gas Ass'n v. Pritzker

ELR Citation: 46 ELR 20169
Nos. 14-35806, 035811, (9th Cir., 10/24/2016)

The Ninth Circuit upheld NMFS' decision to list a distinct population segment (DPS) of the Pacific bearded seal under the ESA based on future impacts of climate change. Using climate projections, NMFS determined that even though the species is not presently endangered, the loss of sea ice over shallow waters in the Arctic would leave the subspecies endangered by the year 2095. It therefore determined threatened status for the subspecies. Oil and gas interests filed lawsuits challenging the listing decision, and a district court held that the listing violated the ESA. But the appellate court reversed, holding that NMFS did not act arbitrarily or capriciously in concluding that the effects of global climate change on sea ice would endanger the Beringia DPS in the foreseeable future. The administrative record demonstrated that NMFS provided a reasonable and evidence-based justification for its mid-century and end-of-century sea ice projections. In addition, NMFS fulfilled its procedural and substantive obligations under ESA §4(i) to provide the state of Alaska with a written justification.