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Panther Data Quality Act Petition Should Be Granted
Winston previously reported on a Data Quality Act petition challenging FWS's protection, or lack thereof, of the endangered Florida panther. Winston promised to follow up on this issue. Here's the follow up, and Winston is pleased to report good news for a change.

The United States District Court for the District of Columbia recently granted most of a court challenge to a Clean Water Act dredge-and-fill permit that had been approved by FWS as not jeopardizing the Florida panther. The court case challenging the CWA Section 404 permit was brought by the National Wildlife Federation and Florida environmental and panther-protection groups. The permit was issued for a limestone mine in Florida. The court concluded that FWS's no-jeopardy determination was "arbitrary and capricious." Based on Winston's reading of the opinion, the court could have used stronger language. FWS relied on bad science and bad facts when it determined that the mining permit wouldn't harm panthers.

The Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility and others are challenging the same bad science and bad facts in the panther DQA petition they filed with FWS. The PEER petition is still under administrative appeal within FWS, and was not directly reviewed by the court in the permit challenge. The court's opinion does, however, note the pending DQA petition and allowed the plaintiffs to supplement the permit litigation record with some of the DQA petition documents.

Winston believes that the court permit decision should be determinative of the DQA petition. Basically the same facts and same science are at issue in both the case and the petition. Facts and science that are arbitrary and capricious do not meet Data Quality Act standards.

Winston will continue to follow and report on the panther DQA petition and related issues.

  • Click for previous Winston panther article.
  • Click for panther court decision.

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