Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.
Proposed rule; reopening of comment period.
We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce the reopening of the public comment period on our October 4, 2012, proposed listing and designation of critical habitat for the fluted kidneyshell (Ptychobranchus subtentum) and slabside pearlymussel (Pleuronaia dolabelloides) under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). We also announce the availability of a draft economic analysis (DEA) of the proposed designation of critical habitat and an amended required determinations section of the proposal. We are reopening the comment period to allow all interested parties an opportunity to comment simultaneously on the proposed rule, the associated DEA, and amended required determinations section. Comments previously submitted need not be resubmitted, as they will be fully considered in preparation of the final rule.
Written comments: We will consider comments received or postmarked on or before May 29, 2013. Comments submitted electronically using the Federal eRulemaking Portal (see ADDRESSES, below) must be received by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on the closing date.
Public informational session and public hearing: We will hold a public informational session and hearing on this proposed rule on May 14, 2013, from 6 to 9 p.m. (see ADDRESSES).
Document availability: You may obtain copies of the proposed rule and the draft economic analysis on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov at Docket Number FWS-R4-ES-2012-0004 or FWS-R4-ES-2013-0026, or by mail from the Tennessee Ecological Services Field Office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT).
Written comments: You may submit written comments by one of the following methods, or at the public hearing:
(1) Electronically: Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. For comments on the proposed listing of these species, search for Docket No. FWS-R4-ES-2012-0004, which is the docket number for the listing portion of the proposed rulemaking. For comments on the proposed critical habitat designation for these species, search for Docket No. FWS-R4-ES-2013-0026, which is the docket number for the critical habitat portion of the proposed rulemaking.
(2) By hard copy: For comments on the proposed listing of these species, submit by U.S. mail or hand-delivery to: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R4-ES-2012-0004; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS 2042-PDM; Arlington, VA 22203. For comments on the proposed critical habitat designation for these species (including the economic analysis), submit by U.S. mail or hand-delivery to: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R4-ES-2013-0026; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS 2042-PDM; Arlington, VA 22203.
We request that you send comments only by the methods described above. We will post all comments on http://www.regulations.gov. This generally means that we will post any personal information you provide us (see the Public Comments section below for more details).
Public informational session and public hearing: The public informational session and hearing will be held at Virginia Highlands Community College, Learning Resource Center, 110 Opportunity Lane, Abingdon, Virginia 24212-0828. People needing reasonable accommodations in order to attend and participate in the public hearing should contact Mary Jennings, Field Supervisor, Tennessee Ecological Services Field Office, as soon as possible (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT).
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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:
Mary Jennings, Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Tennessee Ecological Services Field Office, 446 Neal Street, Cookeville, TN 38501; telephone 931-528-6481; facsimile 931-528-7075. If you use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD), call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 800-877-8339.
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We will accept written comments and information during this reopened comment period on our proposed listing and designation of critical habitat for the fluted kidneyshell and slabside pearlymussel that was published in the Federal Register on October 4, 2012 (77 FR 60803), our DEA, and the amended required determinations provided in this document. We will consider information and recommendations from all interested parties.
We are also notifying the public that we will publish two separate rules for the final listing determination and the final critical habitat determination for the fluted kidneyshell and slabside pearlymussel. The final listing rule will publish under the existing docket number, FWS-R4-ES-2012-0004, and the final critical habitat designation will publish under new docket number FWS-R4-ES-2013-0026.
We will consider information and recommendations from all interested parties as to both determinations. As to the proposed listing determination, we are particularly interested in comments concerning:
(1) Biological, commercial trade, or other relevant data concerning any threats (or lack thereof) to these species and regulations that may be addressing those threats.
(2) Additional information concerning the historical and current status, range, distribution, and population size of these species, including the locations of any additional populations of these species.
(3) Any information on the biological or ecological requirements of these species, and ongoing conservation measures for these species and its habitat.
(4) Current or planned activities in the areas occupied by these species and possible impacts of these activities on these species.
As to the proposed critical habitat determination, we are particularly interested in comments concerning:
(5) The reasons why we should or should not designate habitat as “critical habitat” under section 4 of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), including whether there are threats to these species from human activity, the degree of which can be expected to increase due to the designation, and whether that increase Start Printed Page 25042in threat outweighs the benefit of designation such that the designation of critical habitat is not prudent.
(6) Specific information on:
(a) The distribution of these two mussels;
(b) The amount and distribution of their habitat;
(c) What areas occupied by these species at the time of listing that contain features essential for the conservation of the species we should include in the designation and why;
(d) Special management considerations or protection that may be needed in critical habitat areas we are proposing, including managing for the potential effects of climate change; and
(e) What areas not occupied at the time of listing are essential to the conservation of these species and why.
(7) Land use designations and current or planned activities in the subject areas and their possible impacts on proposed critical habitat.
(8) Any foreseeable economic, national security, or other relevant impacts that may result from designating any area that may be included in the final designation. We are particularly interested in any impacts on small entities, and the benefits of including or excluding areas from the proposed designation that are subject to these impacts.
(9) Information on the extent to which the description of economic impacts in the DEA is complete and accurate.
(10) The likelihood of adverse social reactions to the designation of critical habitat, as discussed in the DEA, and how the consequences of such reactions, if likely to occur, would relate to the conservation and regulatory benefits of the proposed critical habitat designation.
(11) Whether our approach to designating critical habitat could be improved or modified in any way to provide for greater public participation and understanding, or to assist us in accommodating public concerns and comments.
If you submitted comments or information on the proposed rule (77 FR 60803) during the initial comment period from October 4, 2012, to December 3, 2012, please do not resubmit them. We will incorporate them into the public record as part of this comment period, and we will fully consider them in the preparation of our final determination.
You may submit your comments and materials concerning the proposed rule or DEA by one of the methods listed in the ADDRESSES section. We request that you send comments only by the methods described in the ADDRESSES section.
If you submit a comment via http://www.regulations.gov, your entire comment—including any personal identifying information—will be posted on the Web site. We will post all hardcopy comments on http://www.regulations.gov as well. If you submit a hardcopy comment that includes personal identifying information, you may request at the top of your document that we withhold this information from public review. However, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so.
Comments and materials we receive, as well as supporting documentation we used in preparing the proposed rule and DEA, will be available for public inspection on http://www.regulations.gov at Docket No. FWS-R4-ES-2012-0004 for the proposed listing, and at Docket No. FWS-R4-ES-2013-0026 for the proposed critical habitat designation, or by appointment, during normal business hours, at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Tennessee Ecological Services Field Office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT).
It is our intent to discuss only those topics directly relevant to the designation of critical habitat for the fluted kidneyshell and slabside pearlymussel. For more information on the fluted kidneyshell or slabside pearlymussel, their habitat, or previous Federal actions, refer to the proposed listing and designation of critical habitat published in the Federal Register on October 4, 2012 (77 FR 60803), which is available online at http://www.regulations.gov (at Docket No. FWS-R4-ES-2012-0004) or from the Tennessee Ecological Services Field Office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT).
Previous Federal Actions
On October 4, 2012, we published a proposed rule to list these two mussels as endangered and to designate critical habitat (77 FR 60803). We proposed to designate a total of approximately 2,218 river kilometers (1,380 river miles) of critical habitat in Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Virginia. That proposal had a 60-day comment period, ending on December 3, 2012.
Section 3 of the Act defines critical habitat as the specific areas within the geographical area occupied by a species, at the time it is listed in accordance with the Act, on which are found those physical or biological features essential to the conservation of the species and that may require special management considerations or protection, and specific areas outside the geographical area occupied by a species at the time it is listed, upon a determination that such areas are essential for the conservation of the species. If the proposed rule is made final, section 7 of the Act will prohibit destruction or adverse modification of critical habitat by any activity funded, authorized, or carried out by any Federal agency. Federal agencies proposing actions affecting critical habitat must consult with us on the effects of their proposed actions, under section 7(a)(2) of the Act.
Consideration of Impacts Under Section 4(b)(2) of the Act
Section 4(b)(2) of the Act requires that we designate or revise critical habitat based upon the best scientific data available, after taking into consideration the economic impact, impact on national security, or any other relevant impact of specifying any particular area as critical habitat. We may exclude an area from critical habitat if we determine that the benefits of excluding the area outweigh the benefits of including the area as critical habitat, provided such exclusion will not result in the extinction of the species.
When considering the benefits of inclusion for an area, we consider the additional regulatory benefits that area would receive from the protection from adverse modification or destruction as a result of actions with a Federal nexus (activities conducted, funded, permitted, or authorized by Federal agencies), the educational benefits of mapping areas containing essential features that aid in the recovery of the listed species, and any benefits that may result from designation due to State or Federal laws that may apply to critical habitat.
When considering the benefits of exclusion, we consider, among other things, whether exclusion of a specific area is likely to result in conservation; the continuation, strengthening, or encouragement of partnerships; or implementation of a management plan. In the case of these two mussels, the benefits of critical habitat include public awareness of the presence of these species and the importance of habitat protection, and, where a Federal nexus exists, increased habitat protection for these species due to protection from adverse modification or destruction of critical habitat. In practice, situations with a Federal nexus exist primarily on Federal lands or for projects undertaken by Federal agencies.Start Printed Page 25043
We have not proposed to exclude any areas from critical habitat. However, the final decision on whether to exclude any areas will be based on the best scientific data available at the time of the final designation, including information obtained during the comment period and information about the economic impact of designation. Accordingly, our DEA concerning the proposed critical habitat designation is available for review and comment (see ADDRESSES).
Draft Economic Analysis
The purpose of the DEA is to identify and analyze the potential economic impacts associated with the proposed critical habitat designation for these two mussels. The DEA separates conservation measures into two distinct categories according to “without critical habitat” and “with critical habitat” scenarios. The “without critical habitat” scenario represents the baseline for the analysis, considering protections otherwise afforded to these species (including listing under the Act, as well as other Federal, State, and local regulations). The “with critical habitat” scenario describes the incremental impacts associated specifically with the designation of critical habitat for these species. The incremental conservation efforts and associated impacts are those not expected to occur absent the designation of critical habitat for the species. In other words, these incremental conservation measures and associated economic impacts would not occur but for the designation. Conservation measures implemented under the baseline (without critical habitat) scenario are described qualitatively within the DEA, but economic impacts associated with these measures are not quantified. Economic impacts are only quantified for conservation measures implemented specifically due to the designation of critical habitat (i.e., incremental impacts). For a further description of the methodology of the analysis, see Chapter 2, “Methodology,” of the DEA.
The DEA provides estimated costs of the foreseeable potential economic impacts of the proposed critical habitat designation for these two species over the next 20 years, which was determined to be the appropriate period for analysis because limited planning information is available for most activities to forecast activity levels for projects beyond a 20-year timeframe. It identifies potential incremental costs as a result of the proposed critical habitat designation; these are those costs attributed to critical habitat over and above those baseline costs attributed to listing.
The DEA quantifies economic impacts of the fluted kidneyshell and slabside pearlymussel conservation efforts associated with the following categories of activity: (1) Road maintenance and construction; (2) dam operation; (3) commercial, industrial, residential, and associated utility development; (4) agricultural and recreational development; (5) mining; (6) Federal management plan administration; (7) State water quality standards; and (8) restoration and conservation.
The present value of the total incremental cost of critical habitat designation is estimated at $3.5 million over 20 years assuming a 7 percent discount rate, or $175,000 on an annualized basis. Road maintenance and construction activities are likely to be subject to the greatest incremental impacts at $1.94 million over 20 years, followed by commercial, industrial, residential, and associated utility development at $1.1 million; restoration and conservation at $221,000; mining at $132,000; agricultural and recreational development at $75,900; Federal management plan administration at $24,200; dam operation at $21,500; and State water quality standards at $6,800. Please refer to the DEA of the proposed critical habitat designation for a more detailed discussion of potential economic impacts.
As we stated earlier, we are soliciting data and comments from the public on the DEA, as well as all aspects of the proposed rule and our amended required determinations.
In our October 4, 2012, proposed rule (77 FR 60803), we indicated that we would defer our determination of compliance with several statutes and executive orders until the information concerning potential economic impacts of the designation and potential effects on landowners and stakeholders became available in the DEA. We have now made use of the DEA data to make these determinations. In this document, we affirm the information in our proposed rule concerning Executive Orders (E.O.s) 12866 and 13563 (Regulatory Planning and Review), E.O. 12630 (Takings), E.O. 13132 (Federalism), E.O. 12988 (Civil Justice Reform), E.O. 13211 (Energy, Supply, Distribution, and Use), the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (2 U.S.C. 1501 et seq.), the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq.), the National Environmental Policy Act (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), and the President's memorandum of April 29, 1994, “Government-to-Government Relations with Native American Tribal Governments” (59 FR 22951). However, based on the DEA data, we are amending our required determination concerning the Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 601 et seq.).
Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 601 et seq.)
Under the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA; 5 U.S.C. 601 et seq.), as amended by the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996 (SBREFA; 5 U.S.C. 801 et seq.), whenever an agency is required to publish a notice of rulemaking for any proposed or final rule, it must prepare and make available for public comment a regulatory flexibility analysis that describes the effects of the rule on small entities (i.e., small businesses, small organizations, and small government jurisdictions). However, no regulatory flexibility analysis is required if the head of the agency certifies the rule will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. The SBREFA amended the RFA to require Federal agencies to provide a certification statement of the factual basis for certifying that the rule will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. Based on our DEA of the proposed designation, we provide our analysis for determining whether the proposed rule would result in a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. Based on comments we receive, we may revise this determination as part of our final rulemaking.
According to the Small Business Administration, small entities include small organizations such as independent nonprofit organizations; small governmental jurisdictions, including school boards and city and town governments that serve fewer than 50,000 residents; and small businesses (13 CFR 121.201). Small businesses include manufacturing and mining concerns with fewer than 500 employees, wholesale trade entities with fewer than 100 employees, retail and service businesses with less than $5 million in annual sales, general and heavy construction businesses with less than $27.5 million in annual business, special trade contractors doing less than $11.5 million in annual business, and agricultural businesses with annual sales less than $750,000. To determine if potential economic impacts to these small entities are significant, we considered the types of activities that might trigger regulatory impacts under this designation as well as types of project modifications that may result. In general, the term “significant economic Start Printed Page 25044impact” is meant to apply to a typical small business firm's business operations.
To determine if the proposed designation of critical habitat for the fluted kidneyshell and slabside pearlymussel would affect a substantial number of small entities, we considered the number of small entities affected within particular types of economic activities, such as commercial, industrial, residential, and associated utility development; agricultural and recreational development; mining; and restoration and conservation. In order to determine whether it is appropriate for our agency to certify that this proposed rule would not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities, we considered each industry or category individually. In estimating the numbers of small entities potentially affected, we also considered whether their activities have any Federal involvement. Critical habitat designation will not affect activities that do not have any Federal involvement; designation of critical habitat only affects activities conducted, funded, permitted, or authorized by Federal agencies. If we finalize the proposed listing for these species, in areas where the fluted kidneyshell and slabside pearlymussel are present, Federal agencies will be required to consult with us under section 7 of the Act on activities they fund, permit, or implement that may affect these species. If we finalize the proposed critical habitat designation, consultations to avoid the destruction or adverse modification of critical habitat would be incorporated into the existing consultation process.
In the DEA, we evaluated the potential economic effects on small entities resulting from implementation of conservation actions related to the proposed designation of critical habitat for the fluted kidneyshell and slabside pearlymussel. In occupied critical habitat units, costs incurred are assumed to be limited to 15 percent of the project proponent's administrative cost of each projected section 7 consultation: $1,524 per formal consultation and $571 per informal consultation. These costs do not represent significant impacts on small entities. In three unoccupied critical habitat units (i.e., FK 3—Rockcastle River (Kentucky), FK 19—Holston River (Tennessee), and FK 20—French Broad River (Tennessee)) the DEA estimates impacts of $908,000 over 20 years at a 7 percent discount rate. This represents an annualized cost of $45,400 across all entities in those proposed unoccupied units with the majority of the incremental costs associated with project modifications for development projects. Please refer to the DEA of the proposed critical habitat designation for a more detailed discussion of potential economic impacts.
The Service's current understanding of recent case law is that Federal agencies are only required to evaluate the potential impacts of rulemaking on those entities directly regulated by the rulemaking; therefore, they are not required to evaluate the potential impacts to those entities not directly regulated. The designation of critical habitat for an endangered or threatened species only has a regulatory effect where a Federal action agency is involved in a particular action that may affect the designated critical habitat. Under these circumstances, only the Federal action agency is directly regulated by the designation, and, therefore, consistent with the Service's current interpretation of RFA and recent case law, the Service may limit its evaluation of the potential impacts to those identified for Federal action agencies. Under this interpretation, there is no requirement under the RFA to evaluate the potential impacts to entities not directly regulated, such as small businesses. However, Executive Orders 12866 and 13563 direct Federal agencies to assess costs and benefits of available regulatory alternatives in quantitative (to the extent feasible) and qualitative terms. Consequently, it is the current practice of the Service to assess to the extent practicable these potential impacts, if sufficient data are available, whether or not this analysis is believed by the Service to be strictly required by the RFA. In other words, while the effects analysis required under the RFA is limited to entities directly regulated by the rulemaking, the effects analysis under the Act, consistent with the E.O. regulatory analysis requirements, can take into consideration impacts to both directly and indirectly impacted entities, where practicable and reasonable.
In summary, we have considered whether the proposed designation would result in a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. Information for this analysis was gathered from the Small Business Administration, stakeholders, and the Service. For the above reasons and based on currently available information, we certify that, if promulgated, the proposed critical habitat designation would not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small business entities. Therefore, an initial regulatory flexibility analysis is not required.
The primary authors of this notice are the staff members of the Tennessee Ecological Services Field Office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT).
The authority for this action is the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.).
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Dated: April 12, 2013.
Principal Deputy, Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks.
[FR Doc. 2013-09975 Filed 4-26-13; 8:45 am]
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