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Alaska Oil and Gas Association v. Pritzker

840 F.3d 671 (2016)

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Alaska Oil and Gas Association v. Pritzker

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

840 F.3d 671 (2016)

Facts

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) (plaintiff) listed the Pacific bearded seal as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). NMFS relied on climate-change data and projections from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to determine the sea ice the seal relied on throughout its Arctic range for mating, birthing, and nursing would disappear by 2095. Because habitat loss would directly affect the seal’s critical life events, NMFS found the seal was likely to be endangered in the foreseeable future. NMFS defined the foreseeable future based on its new, species-based projection model. A scientific study published shortly after the listing indicated the Arctic was warming even faster than expected and sea ice could disappear as early as 2040. Alaska Oil and Gas Association (Alaska Oil) (defendant) challenged the listing, arguing that (1) NMFS did not use the best available scientific and commercial data; (2) the foreseeable future defined in the listing was longer than NMFS’s traditional practice; and (3) NMFS failed to establish a nexus between habitat loss and extinction risk. The district court granted summary judgment to Alaska Oil and vacated the seal’s threatened listing, ruling NMFS based the listing on volatile climate projections and incomplete data, and failed to set a specific date for when the seal would reach the extinction threshold. NMFS appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Paez, J.)

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