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For Immediate Release, February 23, 2009

Contact: Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495

Appropriation Committee Moves Omnibus Appropriations Bill, Giving Obama Administration Power to Remove Bush Regulations Weakening Endangered Species Act and Rescind Harmful "Special Rule" for Polar Bear

WASHINGTON, D.C.— The U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee moved an omnibus appropriations bill today that, if passed, will give President Obama power to rescind rules weakening both the Endangered Species Act and protections for the polar bear. If the bill passes, the Obama administration will be able to rescind rules without going through a new formal rulemaking process.

“The House’s proposal would make it much easier for the administration to remove rules weakening both the Endangered Species Act and protections for the polar bear,” said Kieran Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity. “We look forward to the bill passing the House and similar legislation moving through the Senate.”

Without the language in the bill, the Obama administration would have had to enter a lengthy rulemaking process to undo the rules, during which time the new rules would be in effect. Instead, the administration will simply be able to rescind the rules and the old rules will take effect immediately.

“These rules are a disaster for the polar bear and hundreds of other species,” said Suckling. “Many in Congress and the administration have expressed opposition to the rules; this legislation will make it easier for the administration to act on that opposition.”

The rules weakening the Endangered Species Act exempt thousands of federal activities, including those that generate greenhouse gases, from review under the Endangered Species Act by allowing federal agencies to determine themselves whether their actions are likely to adversely affect endangered species and thus whether they need scientific review by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife and National Marine Fisheries services. The special rule for the polar bear exempts greenhouse gas emissions and oil development, the two leading threats to the bears, from regulation under the Act.

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