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VA’s Decision to Build Bakersfield Clinic Challenged
An ecologist has challenged the Department of Veterans Affairs’ conclusion that building an outpatient clinic in Bakersfield, California, doesn’t require environmental review. Shawn Smallwood informed the US District Court for the Eastern District of California that the VA executed a lease agreement with defendant SASD Development Group LLC for the clinic’s construction before completing its environmental review, which is required under National Environmental Policy Act regulations. The presence of the endangered San Joaquin kit fox qualifies as an “extraordinary circumstance,” and therefore, the VA can’t categorically exclude an action from environmental review.
Extraordinary Circumstances Mean Environmental Review
The National Environmental Policy Act denotes extraordinary circumstances to include actions that could cause adverse effects on the environment or human health. Mr. Smallwood cited the San Joaquin kit fox, an endangered species, as an extraordinary circumstance that warrants an environmental review before constructing the outpatient clinic in Bakersfield, California. The VA must assess the potential negative effects that clinic construction could have on the kit fox and its habitat.
Environmental Regulations and the VA
The VA must adhere to specific environmental regulations when building new structures or taking other actions that could potentially harm the environment or human health. The National Environmental Policy Act, Endangered Species Act, and Clean Water Act are among the federal laws that apply to the VA. In cases where the VA must undertake a review of its actions’ environmental effects, the VA is required to consult with other experts, including ecologists and environmental scientists.
The Importance of Protecting Endangered Species
Endangered species play a critical role in the ecosystem and are essential to maintaining the balance of nature. The San Joaquin kit fox is an essential part of California’s ecological system. It plays a crucial role in maintaining the integrity of the state’s habitat and food chain. If the VA is allowed to build the outpatient clinic without proper environmental review and consultation, it could threaten the kit fox, other endangered species, and the region’s ecological stability. Therefore, it is imperative that the VA launch an environmental review to ensure that the outpatient clinic’s construction aligns with federal laws and environmental regulations and doesn’t harm the region’s ecological system.