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Find out more from the Center for Biological Diversity:
Endangered Species Act in Peril
Polar bear
CQ Today, February 23, 2009

Fiscal 2009 Omnibus: New Endangered Species Rules Could Be Eliminated
By Avery Palmer

The omnibus appropriations bill released Monday would allow the Obama administration to eliminate two controversial endangered species regulations issued in the final months of George W. Bush's presidency.

The rules - especially one that would overhaul implementation of the Endangered Species Act (PL 93-205) - have sparked outrage and lawsuits from environmental groups.

The fiscal 2009 spending bill (HR 1105) would allow the Interior and Commerce departments to withdraw the rules within 60 days of the bill*s passage. An environmentalist said the bill would effectively allow the Obama administration to avoid the public notice and comment period that is normally required to change such rules.

*It reinforces congressional intent that those rules are highly suspect,* said William Snape, senior counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity.

One of the Bush administration rules would eliminate requirements for federal agencies to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service over actions that would harm endangered species. The second rule would limit protection of the polar bear.

Meanwhile, the bill proposes $27.6 billion for Interior, Environment and Related Agencies, slightly less than the $27.9 billion approved by a House Appropriations subcommittee last year. The fiscal 2008 bill provided $26.3 billion, according to figures released by the House
Appropriations Committee.

The EPA would receive $7.6 billion, which is $174 million more than the previous year, the committee said. But the agency*s funding also would be supplemented with money from the recent economic recovery package (PL 111-5).

For example, the omnibus would provide $689 million for a fund to improve sewer and wastewater infrastructure, but the stimulus package provided it $4 billion. A drinking water fund would get $829 million under the omnibus after receiving $2 billion in the stimulus law.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs would receive $2.4 billion, which is $85 million more than the previous year. The Indian Health Service would get $3.6 billion, or $235 million above fiscal 2008 level.

The bill includes $2.5 billion for national parks, which is $135 million more than last year. It would provide $2.6 billion for the U.S.
Forest Service, excluding firefighting activities, which is $79 million above fiscal 2008, the committee said.

The Smithsonian Institution would receive $731 million, an increase of $49 million from 2008 levels.

Conspicuously missing from the bill is any language that would restore the statutory moratorium on oil and gas drilling off most U.S. shorelines. That prohibition was allowed to lapse last year.

Photo © Paul S. Hamilton