Loper Bright Enters. v. Raimondo, Civ. Action No. 20-466 (EGS)

CourtUnited States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
Writing for the CourtEmmet G. Sullivan United States District Judge
PartiesLoper Bright Enterprises, Inc., et al., Plaintiffs, v. GINA RAIMONDO, in her official capacity, Secretary, U.S. Department of Commerce, et al., Defendants.
Docket NumberCiv. Action No. 20-466 (EGS)
Decision Date15 June 2021

Loper Bright Enterprises, Inc., et al., Plaintiffs,
GINA RAIMONDO, in her official capacity, Secretary,
U.S. Department of Commerce, et al., Defendants.

Civ. Action No. 20-466 (EGS)


June 15, 2021


Plaintiffs, "a collection of commercial fishing firms headquartered in southern New Jersey that participate regularly in the Atlantic herring fishery," challenge the U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary's final rule promulgating the New England Industry-Funded Monitoring Omnibus Amendment ("Omnibus Amendment") and its implementing regulations, which establish a process for administering future industry-funded monitoring in Fishery Management Plans governing certain New England fisheries and implement a required industry-funded monitoring program in the Atlantic herring fishery. Pls.' Mem. P. & A. Supp. Mot. Summ. J. ("Pls.' Mot."), ECF No. 18-1 at 22-23.1 Plaintiffs

Page 2

allege that the Omnibus Amendment suffers from procedural flaws and violates the directives of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act ("MSA"), 16 U.S.C. § 1801 et seq.; the National Environmental Policy Act ("NEPA"), 42 U.S.C. § 4321 et seq.; the Regulatory Flexibility Act, 5 U.S.C. § 601 et seq.; and the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. § 701 et seq. See Compl., ECF No. 1. Plaintiffs further contend that the industry-funded monitoring requirement constitutes an unconstitutional tax and violates the Anti-Deficiency Act, 31 U.S.C. § 1341; the Independent Offices Appropriations Act, 31 U.S.C. § 9701; and the Miscellaneous Receipts Act, 31 U.S.C. § 3302. See Pls.' Mot., ECF No. 18-1 at 38-40. Defendants—Gina Raimondo,2 Secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce; the U.S. Department of Commerce; Benjamin Friedman,3 Deputy Under Secretary for Operations, performing the duties of Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ("NOAA") Administrator; the NOAA; Chris Oliver, Assistant Administrator for NOAA

Page 3

Fisheries; and the National Marine Fisheries Service ("NMFS")—dispute Plaintiffs' claims.

Pending before the Court are Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment, ECF No. 18; Defendants' Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment, ECF No. 20; and Defendants' Motion to Exclude Plaintiffs' Extra-Record Declaration, ECF No. 24. Upon consideration of the parties' submissions, the applicable law, and the entire record herein, the Court DENIES Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment, GRANTS Defendants' Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment, and GRANTS Defendants' Motion to Exclude.

I. Background

A. Statutory and Regulatory Background

1. The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976

The MSA "balances the twin goals of conserving our nation's aquatic resources and allowing U.S. fisheries to thrive." Oceana, Inc. v. Pritzker, 26 F. Supp. 3d 33, 36 (D.D.C. 2014). Congress enacted the MSA to, among other things, "conserve and manage the fishery resources found off the coasts of the United States," and "promote domestic commercial and recreational fishing under sound conservation and management principles." 16 U.S.C. § 1801(b)(1), (3). The MSA tasks the Secretary of Commerce with the pursuit of these goals, and the Secretary has in turn delegated her responsibility to the National Marine

Page 4

Fisheries Service ("NMFS" or the "Service").4 See 16 U.S.C. § 1855(d). In addition, the MSA divides the country into eight regions, and establishes a Fishery Management Council in each region to manage the region's marine fisheries.5 See id. § 1852. "Together, the Service and the Councils act to address imbalances in aquatic ecosystems." Oceana, Inc., 26 F. Supp. 3d at 37.

Each Fishery Management Council must prepare and submit to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce a Fishery Management Plan ("FMP"), which is approved by the Service. 16 U.S.C. §§ 1852(h), 1854(a). As is most relevant here, the New England Fishery Management Council ("NEFMC" or the "Council") is responsible for developing and recommending FMPs for fisheries in the Atlantic Ocean seaward of Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut, including the Atlantic herring fishery. See id. §§ 1852(a)(1)(A), 1852(h)(1).

FMPs contain "conservation and management measures" that are "necessary and appropriate for the conservation and management of the fishery, to prevent overfishing and rebuild

Page 5

overfished stocks, and to protect, restore, and promote the long-term health and stability of the fishery." Id. § 1853(a)(1)(A). FMPs must also be consistent with the ten "national standards" provided for in the MSA, as well as all other provisions of the MSA, and "any other applicable law." Id. § 1853(a)(1)(C); see also id. § 1851 (setting forth National Standards). In this case, Plaintiffs claim that the Omnibus Amendment violates two of those national standards:

["National Standard Seven":] Conservation and management measures shall, where practicable, minimize costs and avoid unnecessary duplication.

["National Standard Eight":] Conservation and management measures shall, consistent with the conservation requirements of this chapter (including the prevention of overfishing and rebuilding of overfished stocks), take into account the importance of fishery resources to fishing communities by utilizing economic and social data that meet the requirements of paragraph (2), in order to (A) provide for the sustained participation of such communities, and (B) to the extent practicable, minimize adverse economic impacts on such communities.

Id. § 1851(a)(7)-(8).

FMPs may also include additional discretionary provisions to conserve and manage fisheries. Id. § 1853(b). Among other things, FMPs may "require that one or more observers be carried on board a vessel of the United States engaged in fishing for species that are subject to the plan, for the purpose of collecting data necessary for the conservation and management of

Page 6

the fishery." Id. § 1853(b)(8). FMPs may also "prescribe such other measures, requirements, or conditions and restrictions as are determined to be necessary and appropriate for the conservation and management of the fishery." Id. § 1853(b)(14).

After a council prepares an FMP or amendment and any proposed implementing regulations, it submits them to the Service, which acts on behalf of the Commerce Secretary, for review. See generally id. § 1854. The Service reviews the submission for consistency with applicable law and solicits public comments for sixty days. Id. § 1854(a)(1)(A)-(B). Within thirty days of the end of the comment period, the Service shall approve, disapprove, or partially approve the submission. Id. § 1854(a)(3). If the Service approves, a final rule is published in the Federal Register. See id. § 1854(b)(3). Approved FMPs or amendments are subject to judicial review under the APA within thirty days. See id. § 1855(f)(1).

2. The National Environmental Policy Act

Congress enacted NEPA "to use all practicable means, consistent with other essential considerations of national policy, to improve and coordinate Federal plans, functions, programs, and resources to the end that the Nation may . . . fulfill the responsibilities of each generation as trustee of the environment for succeeding generations." 42 U.S.C. § 4331(b). To comply with these obligations, agencies must prepare

Page 7

an Environmental Impact Statement ("EIS") in which the agency takes a "hard look" at the environmental consequences before taking major action. Id. § 4332(c). An EIS must "inform decision makers and the public of reasonable alternatives that would avoid or minimize adverse impacts . . . of the human environment." 40 C.F.R. § 1502.1.

To determine whether an EIS must be prepared, the agency must first prepare an environmental assessment ("EA"), which must (1) "[b]riefly provide sufficient evidence and analysis for determining whether to prepare an environmental impact statement or a finding of no significant impact." Id. § 1501.5(c). Even if the agency performs only an EA, it must still briefly discuss the need for the proposal, the alternatives, and the environmental impacts of the proposed action and the alternatives. Id. If the agency determines, after preparing an EA, that a full EIS is not necessary, it must prepare a Finding of No Significant Impact ("FONSI") setting forth the reasons why the action will not have a significant impact on the environment. Id. § 1501.6. An EA and FONSI alone will not be sufficient, however, in certain circumstances. Agencies must prepare a supplement to a draft or final EIS when: (1) "[t]he agency makes substantial changes to the proposed action that are relevant to environmental concerns"; or (2) "[t]here are significant new circumstances or information relevant to

Page 8

environmental concerns and bearing on the proposed action or its impacts." 40 C.F.R. § 1502.9(d)(1).

B. Factual Background

Plaintiffs—a "collection of commercial fishing firms headquartered in southern New Jersey that participate regularly in the Atlantic herring fishery," Pls.' Mot., ECF No. 18-1 at 23—challenge the Omnibus Amendment, which the NEFMC finalized in 2018 to establish a standardized process for the development of industry-funded monitoring in FMPs across New England fisheries and to establish industry-funded monitoring in the Atlantic herring fishery. See Administrative R. ("AR") at 17769-71. The approved Omnibus Amendment measures include the following "core elements":

First, the omnibus measures establish a process for FMP-specific industry monitoring to be implemented through an FMP amendment and revised through a framework adjustment. . . .

Second, the omnibus measures identify standard cost responsibilities for industry-funded monitoring for NMFS and the fishing industry, dividing those responsibilities by cost category. . . .

Third, the omnibus measures establish standard

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT