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Chamber of Commerce Sues Interior Dept.|Over Endangered Species Consultation Rule

WASHINGTON (CN) - The Chamber of Commerce of the USA sued the Secretary of the Interior in Federal Court, claiming a rule on when businesses must "consult" with the Interior Department under the Endangered Species Act is too vague and will cost too much money.

The Chamber challenges a Final Rule published in the Federal Register on Dec. 11: "Interagency Cooperation Under the Endangered Species Act." The Chamber claims the rule is arbitrary and capricious.

"Many of the Chamber's members require federal funding or authorization for their activities," the complaint states. "As a result, such funding or authorization can trigger federal environmental reviews, including the potential need for consultations, biological assessments, and biological opinions under Section 7 of the ESA. The ESA consultation process adds costs to projects and can produce extensive delays. The Final Rule clarifies the regulations governing when such Section 7 consultations must occur in certain instances. The Chamber's members have an interest in avoiding unnecessary costs and delays in obtaining authorization for their activities. Thus, to the extent that the Final Rule fails to clarify adequately the circumstances when Section 7 consultation is required, and imposes unnecessary regulatory burdens beyond that required by the ESA, the Chamber's members will suffer harm."

The Chamber claims it objected to the Final Rule, but the government went ahead and passed it anyway. It claims this violated the Administrative Procedures Act. It wants the rule enjoined. Its lead counsel is Michael Wigmore with Bingham McCutcheon.

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