50 CFR 452.03 - Threshold review and determinations.
(a) Threshold determinations. Within 20 days after receiving an exemption application, or a longer time agreed upon between the exemption applicant and the Secretary, the Secretary shall conclude his review and determine:
(1) Whether any required biological assessment was conducted;
(2) To the extent determinable within the time period provided, whether the Federal agency and permit or license applicant, if any, have refrained from making any irreversible or irretrievable commitment of resources; and
(3) Whether the Federal agency and permit or license applicant, if any, have carried out consultation responsibilities in good faith and have made a reasonable and responsible effort to develop and fairly consider modifications or reasonable and prudent alternatives to the proposed action which would not violate section 7(a)(2) of the Act.
(b) Burden of proof. The exemption applicant has the burden of proving that the requirements of § 452.03(a) have been met.
(c) Negative finding. If the Secretary makes a negative finding on any threshold determination, the Secretary shall deny the application and notify the exemption applicant in writing of his finding and grounds therefor. The exemption process shall terminate when the applicant receives such written notice. The Secretary's denial shall constitute final agency action for purposes of judicial review under chapter 7 of title 5 of the United States Code.
(d) Positive finding. If the Secretary makes a positive finding on each of the threshold determinations, he shall notify the exemption applicant in writing that the application qualifies for consideration by the Endangered Species Committee.
(e) Secretary of State opinion. The Secretary shall terminate the exemption process immediately if the Secretary of State, pursuant to his obligations under section 7(i) of the Act, certifies in writing to the Committee that granting an exemption and carrying out the proposed action would violate an international treaty obligation or other international obligation of the United States.