You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myStatesman.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myStatesman.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myStatesman.com.

With Obama’s time short, Ken Paxton sues feds for perhaps the last time


For perhaps the last time before President Barack Obama leaves office, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has filed suit against the federal government for what he considers federal overreach, this time in an endangered species matter.

Deservedly or not, the Obama administration has been a ready punching bag for Texas state officials the last eight years — Paxton’s predecessor, Gov. Greg Abbott, once famously described his job as waking up in the morning, suing the federal government, and returning home — and with fellow Republican Donald Trump ascending to the presidency in less than two months, state officials appear to be confronting a future without an obvious political foe in Washington.

In the latest lawsuit, filed in a federal court in Alabama on Tuesday, Texas joined 17 other states attacking new federal rules involving endangered species habitat.

The issue runs hot and heavy in Texas, where real estate and oil and gas interests sometimes find themselves running into habitat rules. In Central Texas, environmentalists and developers have waged pitched battles over protections for the golden-cheeked warbler, for instance, or the Barton Springs salamander, to name two of the most famous protected species.

NEWS STRAIGHT TO YOUR INBOX: Click here to get our Morning Headlines email

One rule revises the definition of “destruction or adverse modification” of habitat.

Under the old definition, habitat destruction involved “a direct or indirect alteration that appreciably diminishes the value of critical habitat for both the survival and recovery of a listed species.”

But courts found that the definition was wanting. Thus, the new definition holds that destruction is anything that diminishes “the conservation of a listed species.”

RELATED: Barton Springs project for salamanders likely to cost $1.7 million

Another rule clarifies the procedures and standards used for designating critical habitat.

Federal officials say the changes are meant to increase transparency.

“The Endangered Species Act is the last safety net between our most at-risk species and extinction, and, as such, we want to do everything we can to make sure it functions efficiently and effectively,” Gary Frazer, the Fish and Wildlife Service’s assistant director for ecological services, said in February, when the rules were finalized.

But the suit says the changes would allow the government “to exercise virtually unlimited power to declare land and water critical habitat for endangered and threatened species, regardless of whether that land or water is occupied or unoccupied by the species, regardless of the presence or absence of the physical or biological features necessary to sustain the species, and regardless of whether the land or water is actually essential to the conservation of the species habitat protections for endangered species.”

RELATED: Texas mussel proposed as endangered, with implications for waterways

The rules were proposed in 2014.

But that didn’t stop Paxton on Tuesday from suggesting the rules were “another end run around Congress by a president who is desperate to establish his environmental legacy by any means necessary before his time in office ends in less than 60 days.”

“The Obama administration,” he said, “is hiding behind bogus rules to perpetrate land grabs, kill energy projects and block economic development.”

Texas has challenged the federal government on at least two dozen environmental-related cases since Obama took office.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Charlotte attorney disbarred after being accused of having sex with clients
Charlotte attorney disbarred after being accused of having sex with clients

A Charlotte, North Carolina, attorney accused of having sex with several of his immigration clients has been disbarred, officials said. Court documents show the clients he targeted were "especially vulnerable." According to the court filing, attorney Chris Greene voluntarily surrendered his license after he agreed that he could not defend...
Man dies in FM 1431 crash in Lago Vista

LAGO VISTA Man dies in FM 1431 crash A man died in a crash Friday morning near Lago Vista, a Department of Public Safety spokeswoman said. Brian M. Young, 50, died after the crash around 7:40 a.m., spokeswoman Robbie Barrera said. The other driver, who survived the crash, told state troopers that he was pulling a trailer with his pickup truck down...
Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody ‘arrests’ 4 Stormtroopers
Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody ‘arrests’ 4 Stormtroopers

Newly sworn-in Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody isn’t playing games when it comes to protecting the people of Wilco. Chody, 46, posted a tweet from his official sheriff’s account Friday, saying he has four in custody after holding a few Stormtroopers at gunpoint in the Avery Ranch area for a promotion of “Star Wars: The Old...
Sex abuse victim in ex-state doctor Charles Fischer case seeks damages
Sex abuse victim in ex-state doctor Charles Fischer case seeks damages

Patients who testified in ex-state psychiatrist Charles Fischer’s criminal trial last fall said they weren’t seeking any monetary gain when they came forward with sexual abuse accusations against him. That narrative changed Monday when the main victim — whose 2011 outcry in connection to a 2003 assault sparked a flurry of allegations...
Lawmakers debate when to honor — and when to override — local regulations
Lawmakers debate when to honor — and when to override — local regulations

Local control, as any locally elected Texas lawmaker will tell you, is better than the Capitol pulling the strings. Government closer to the people surely must be better than a government farther from the people. Especially that faraway federal district squeezed in between Virginia and Maryland. Except when it isn’t, when a wise, liberty-loving...
More Stories