If briefs filed regarding the verdict of The Aransas Project (TAP) lawsuit against the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality (TCEQ) are any indication, the objectivity of U.S. District Court Judge Janis Graham Jack, the expertise of former U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Whooping Crane Biologist Thomas Stehn, and the reach of the 11th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution will be challenged when oral arguments are heard in August.
The briefs were submitted to the Court of Appeals last month in New Orleans.
Last March Jack ruled in favor of TAP contending TCEQ violated the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) in a judgment issued by the United States District Court Southern District of Texas Corpus Christi Division. The suit, heard in late 2010 and early 2011, claimed the TCEQ failed to provide adequate freshwater inflows from the Guadalupe River Basin into the bays and estuaries; the lack of fresh water reduced the blue crab populations; and damaged the Whooping Crane flock. Blue crabs are a main food source for the endangered species. The last surviving wild flock of Whooping Cranes winter at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) and surrounding area. The suit also argued too much freshwater from the Guadalupe River was kept from the bays during the 2008-2009 drought, causing the death of 23 cranes.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit issued a stay of the verdict as requested by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott. In granting the stay, the court also ordered the appeal be heard in August.