On April 20, 2017, the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) filed a lawsuit to challenge the constitutionality of the Congressional Review Act (CRA). The CRA gives Congress authority to review and nullify federal regulations with which Congress does not agree within a 60-day period after the rules are finalized.
CBD’s suit focuses on a component of the CRA that prohibits federal agencies from issuing rules that are “substantially the same” as regulations previously nullified by a congressional joint resolution. CBD claims that this prohibition interferes with the constitutional separation of powers between Congress and the executive branch.
The purpose of CBD’s suit is to invalidate House Joint Resolution 69 (H.J. 69), which was signed by the President on April 3. H.J. 69 nullified a regulation adopted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) at the end of the Obama administration that prohibited forms of hunting on all National Wildlife Refuges in Alaska.
SCI and its two Alaska chapters have long opposed the FWS regulations that were the subject of H.J. 69. In January 2017, just before the new Administration took office, SCI filed suit to challenge those hunting restrictions. SCI’s suit also challenges similar National Park Service (NPS) regulations that prohibit forms of hunting on all National Preserves in Alaska and challenges regulations regarding hunting and access on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. The State of Alaska also filed a similar suit as did the Alaska Professional Hunters Association and the Sportsmen’s Alliance.
SCI also worked hard to help win passage of H.J. 69 by both houses of Congress and its approval by the President. Adoption of H.J. 69 means that the FWS regulations are no longer in place and that SCI will not need to pursue litigation against those rules for now. As a result, SCI’s lawsuit can focus solely on invalidating the NPS and Kenai Refuge regulations.
Although CBD’s express purpose in challenging the CRA is to invalidate H.J. Res. 69 and reinstate the FWS Alaska regulations, their lawsuit has much broader implications. CBD has chosen to challenge the constitutionality of provisions of the Congressional Review Act. If CBD is successful with its litigation, it is possible that its win would not only invalidate H.J. 69 (and reinstate the FWS Alaska regulations), but would also put at risk all the joint resolutions that Congress and the President have approved over the last few weeks that nullify other regulations adopted by the Obama Administration.
SCI will be looking closely at CBD’s challenge to the CRA to determine whether we should attempt to participate in the lawsuit to defend the CRA and H.J. 69. Continue to watch your SCI communications for updates on this new development in SCI’s efforts to protect hunting opportunities and scientific wildlife management in Alaska and throughout the U.S.