A group of states have won an early round in their court challenge to Trump administration rules that loosen endangered-species protections.

In a May 18 order in U.S. District Court in Oakland, Calif., Judge Jon S. Tigar denied an administration petition seeking to dismiss the lawsuit, which attorneys general from California, 17 other states and New York City had filed last September.

Minnesota and Wisconsin joined the lawsuit in October.

In their lawsuit, the AGs argued that the group of three final rules, which the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service published in the Federal Register on Aug. 27, “fundamentally undermine and contradict” requirements of the Endangered Species Act.

They also contended that the rules violate the National Environmental Policy Act and are “arbitrary and capricious” under the Administrative Procedure Act. The states asked the court to invalidate the rules and reinstate earlier regulations.

On Dec. 6, the Justice Dept.—representing the federal agencies—filed a motion to dismiss the complaint, contending the states lacked standing to bring the case and also that the matter was not “ripe” to be adjudicated.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, whose state is the lead plaintiff, said in a statement, “We commend the court for moving this challenge onward and look forward to continuing our strong fight against these unlawful rules.”

A Fish and Wildlife Service spokesperson told ENR in an emailed statement, "Our changes to the implementaton of the Endangered Species Act provide clarity and regulatory certainty to the public, industry and other federal agencies.

The official added, "We continue to work at every opportunity to improve our regulations and reduce the regulatory burden while recovering our most at-risk species."