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For Immediate Release, February 27, 2013

Contact: Kierán Suckling, (520) 275-5960

Cornyn's Bill Favors Special Interests, Industry over Democracy, Protection of Species

TUCSON, Ariz.— Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) introduced a bill today that gives the oil and gas industry, corporations and local politicians the power to veto settlements aimed at protecting the country’s most imperiled animals and plants. The so-called “Endangered Species Act Settlement Reform Act” includes a provision to grant any corporation the ability to intervene in a settlement over species protections between the government and a citizen or nonprofit group. The bill would also give state and local politicians veto power over agreements designed to save species from extinction.

“This bill is little more than a stunt by Cornyn to please his friends in the oil and gas industry and the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party,” said Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity.

In 2011, the Center reached a historic agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to make Endangered Species Act protection decisions for 757 species around the country that had already been identified as needing protection by government biologists. The agreement not only speeds up decisions for some of the most imperiled species in the country — some that have waited decades for a decision — but also avoids years of costly litigation. The settlement only requires that the agency make protection decisions with full public participation; it does not stipulate the outcome of any decision.

“Cornyn’s bill would put industry and local politicians in the driver’s seat when it comes to deciding how to best protect species. That just doesn’t make any sense and is totally out of line with the science-based decisions that the Endangered Species Act requires,” Suckling said. “And, besides, it’ll make it virtually impossible for any future agreement to go through and will make litigation far more likely, tying up more resources of the government, the courts and businesses.”

At a broader, legal level, the bill allows industry and politicians to intervene in a settlement over a suit brought between a single citizen and the federal government.

“For 200 years, our court system has applied a universal equal standard to anyone who wants to seek intervention. Cornyn’s bill trashes this democratic tradition, giving business interests special rights to intervene,” Suckling said.

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