Alaska Oil & Gas Ass'n v. Pritzker, No. 14-35806 (9th Cir. 2016)Annotate this Case
The NMFS used climate projections to determine that the loss of sea ice over shallow waters in the Arctic would leave the Pacific bearded seal subspecies endangered by the year 2095. Plaintiffs filed separate suits challenging the NMFS's listing decision regarding the Okhotsk and Beringia distinct population segments (DPS) of the Pacific bearded seal subspecies under the Endangered Species Act's (ESA), 16 U.S.C. 1540(g), citizen suit provision, and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. 706. The district court denied relief with respect to the Okhotsk DPS for lack of Article III standing, but granted summary judgment to plaintiffs on their challenge to NMFS’s decision to list the Beringia DPS as a threatened species. The district court vacated the Listing Rule. The court held that, in light of the robustness of NMFS’s rulemaking process, as well as the court's highly deferential standard of review, NMFS’s final rule listing the Beringia DPS as threatened was not arbitrary or capricious, and its listing decision was supported by substantial evidence. Finally, the court concluded that NMFS clearly fulfilled its procedural and substantive obligations under Section 4(i) of the ESA to provide Alaska with a written justification. Accordingly, the court reversed the judgment.