Supreme Court Denies Review of Whooping Crane Case Favoring TCEQ

Lissa Gregg

whooping crane, whooping crane lawsuitYesterday, the United States Supreme Court denied a petition to review the case that ruled the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality was not responsible for the winter 2008 deaths of endangered whooping cranes on the Texas coast.

In 2013, a group called The Aransas Project brought a lawsuit against the TCEQ arguing that the issuance of water permits caused a decline of freshwater near the cranes’ habitat and depleted their food staples of blue crabs and wolfberries, resulting in the death of 23 cranes during the winter of 2008. The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas originally granted an injunction prohibiting the TCEQ from issuing new water permits. However, in July 2014, the U.S. Firth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that decision concluding, “the deaths of the whooping cranes are too remote from TCEQ’s permitting withdrawal of water from the San Antonio and Guadalupe Rivers, the state defendants cannot be held liable for a take or for causing a take under the ESA [Endangered Species Act].” The court stated that “[f]inding proximate cause and imposing liability on the State defendants in the face of multiple, natural, independent, unpredictable and interrelated forces affecting the cranes’ estuary environment goes too far.”

Attorneys for The Aransas Project filed a petition to appeal the decision, but the U.S. Supreme Court denied the petition this week.

Read more on the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority’s website.