By ROBERT D. POLLITT
On Oct. 2, the United States Department of Interior (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) published its proposal to list the “northern long-eared bat” as an endangered species throughout its entire range.
The agency noted that it did not have sufficient information to determine whether it would designate any areas within the bat’s range as “critical habitat.” The agency is seeking comments regarding both the listing and the possible designation of the areas in the bats’ range as “critical habitat.”
The agency concluded that the bat is primarily threatened by a disease named White Nose Syndrome. The agency cites a report that found that in some of its habitats, the Northern Long Eared Bat population is experiencing a 99 percent mortality rate due strictly to the disease.
Additionally, the agency noted in its findings that WNS is generally spread by bat-to-bat contact or when the bats enter contaminated caves. The agency notes in its study that the bats’ primary habitats are caves, abandoned mines and railway tunnels. However, the bats roost and populate various forest areas near their primary habitat during the summer months.
Regardless of the agency’s conclusions related to the disease, it proposes some limitations be placed upon energy and commercial development within the bat’s habitat range.
The range at issue includes 38 states and the District of Columbia, stretching from the East Coast to Wyoming and as far south as Alabama. The majority of states situated within the bats’ range produce some form of energy, be it coal, shale gas or are the sites of existing or proposed wind development projects.
The agency concluded that commercial activity, highway construction and the development of energy projects (including Marcellus shale wells and wind-powered projects and their associated activities such as turbine placement and lay down areas, transmission lines and substations may adversely affect the bats’ habitats.
All developing companies, including wind power developers, should be aware of the proposed regulations and the potential effects of the proposed rule upon their current or future activities.
If your business may be affected by the proposed listing and regulation now is the time to prepare your comments and to submit “scientific information” to the agency for its consideration. The Agency is accepting comments concerning the proposed rule until Dec. 2.
Robert D. Pollitt is an attorney in Steptoe & Johnson's Charleston office. This editorial appeared on the firm's Environmental Essentials blog.