For Immediate Release, April 6, 2009
Contact: Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495
Forty-four House Democrats Call on Obama Administration to
Repeal Harmful Bush Endangered Species Regulations
WASHINGTON, D.C.— Forty-four members of the House of Representatives, including seven committee chairman and several other high-ranking leaders, sent a letter Friday calling upon Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke to rescind rules passed in the final days of the Bush administration that weaken the Endangered Species Act by exempting thousands of federal activities, including those that generate greenhouse gases, from review under the Endangered Species.
Congress passed legislation on March 10 giving Secretary Salazar power until May 9 to rescind the rules with the stroke of a pen. To date, Secretary Salazar has not said whether he will use the power granted by Congress, prompting the letter that strongly urged him to rescind the rules.
“This is a major test for the Obama administration,” said Noah Greenwald, biodiversity program director for the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Bush administration rules are a disaster for the nation’s endangered species and need to be undone.”
The Bush rules allow federal agencies to determine for themselves whether their actions are likely to harm endangered species and thus whether they need independent scientific review by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife and National Marine Fisheries services.
“These regulations are a recipe for the extinction of endangered species,” said Greenwald. “They are a classic example of letting the fox guard the henhouse and would allow thousands of projects that harm endangered species to move forward without mitigation.”
The letter, which was led by House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick Rahall, and signed by among others House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman, House Energy Independence and Global Warming Chairman Ed Markey, and House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Norm Dicks, states: “[W]e strongly oppose these regulations because they cut at the heart of the law that has protected and recovered endangered fish, wildlife and plants for the past 35 years,” adding that “[q]uick withdrawal of these flawed rules is essential,” because “[e]very day they remain in effect places endangered wildlife at greater risk of extinction.”
The rules also prohibit any consideration of the impacts of greenhouse gas emissions from federal projects on endangered species like the polar bear. Greenhouse gas emissions are currently predicted to result in loss of two-thirds of the world’s polar bear population by 2050. If the rules are allowed to remain in place, the Fish and Wildlife Service will not be able to consider and mitigate such impacts.
“The polar bear and numerous other species threatened by climate change need the protections of the Endangered Species Act to survive,” said Greenwald. “If the new administration does not eliminate these lethal endangered species rules, then it’s not clear the Obama administration is charting a course that’s significantly different from Bush’s on endangered species issues.”