313, August 7, 2002
COMPLIANCE WITH ALT FUELS LAW PASSED AFTER THE GULF WAR, WHICH CALLS FOR
THE U.S. GOVERNMENT TO BUY HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF ALTERNATIVE FUELS CARS
SKIPPER BUTTERFLY LISTED AS ENDANGERED
PRINCE WILLIAM SOUND ORCAS AND HERRING HAVE NOT RECOVERED FROM EXXON VALDEZ
TO CORRECT TAXONOMY OF IMPERILED PRINCE WILLIAM SOUND ORCAS
DECLARES EXTINCTION OF PUGET SOUND ORCAS IS "INSIGNIFICANT"- LEGAL
ORDERS COMPLIANCE WITH ALT FUELS LAW PASSED AFTER THE GULF WAR, WHICH CALLS
FOR THE U.S. GOVERNMENT TO BUY HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF ALTERNATIVE FUELS CARS
In response to a lawsuit
by the Center for Biological Diversity, Bluewater Network, and the Sierra Club,
a federal judge has ruled that nearly every cabinet level agency in the U.S.
government has violated the Energy Policy Act of 1992 by failing to convert
federal car fleets to alternative fuel vehicles.
The Energy Policy Act was
signed into law after the Gulf War by George Bush Sr., who declared "My
action today will place America upon a clear path toward a more prosperous,
energy efficient, environmentally sensitive, and economically secure future."
It was designed to divert 10% of American transportation fuel demand from petroleum
by the year 2000, and 30% by the 2010. If fully implemented, the law would have
vastly decreased U.S. reliance on fossil fuels, eliminated the excuse to develop
new oil fields and pipelines in wildlife areas such as the Arctic National Wildlife
Refuge, reduced air pollution, and weaned the nation from unstable foreign fossil
fuel sources. Currently the U.S. buys more than a half-million barrels of oil
a day from Iraq.
With over 600,000 vehicles
in its fleet, the U.S. government is the largest car purchaser in the nation
and thus has enormous influence over Detroit's design, production, sales and
costs trends. If the U.S. were to convert most of its fleet to alternative fuels
vehicles, national use of polluting fossil fuels would immediately decrease,
and car manufacturers would start producing many more and much cheaper alternative
fuel vehicles. For this reason, the Energy Policy Act required that 75% of all
light-duty cars and trucks purchased by federal agencies in major metropolitan
areas be alternative fuels vehicles rather than traditional petroleum-fueled
cars and trucks.
Most agencies, however,
have continued to purchase traditional gas guzzling vehicles. The Department
of Commerce, for example, purchased only 17% alternative fuel vehicles in 2000,
while the EPA purchased only 35% alternative fuel vehicles in 1998. The agencies
found guilty of violating the Energy Policy Act include the Departments of Commerce,
Defense, Interior, Transportation, Agriculture, Justice, Labor, State, Health
and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Veterans Affairs, the General
Services Administration, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Environmental
Protection Agency, and NASA.
Judge Alsup also found
that many federal agencies failed to publish public reports on their compliance
with the Energy Policy Act. He ordered the government to prepare overdue reports
by 11-26-02, and to make these reports available to the public over the Internet
by 1-31-03. In these compliance reports, federal agencies must not only admit
prior failings to acquire alternative fuel vehicles, they must submit a specific
plan, including dates, by which they will come into compliance with the law.
Finally, the Energy Policy
Act required the Department of Energy to consider a regulation to extend the
alternative fuels vehicle acquisition requirements to private and municipal
fleets in major metropolitan areas. It failed to do this as well. Judge Alsup
ordered both sides to submit further briefing on how long the court should give
the Department of Energy to take action on the overdue regulation.
The case was filed on 1-22-02
by Jay Tutchton of Earthjustice (Denver).
WANDERING SKIPPER BUTTERFLY LISTED AS ENDANGERED
In keeping with a legal
agreement reached with the Center for Biological Diversity, the California Native
Plant Society and the Southern Appalachian Biodiversity Project, the U.S. Fish
& Wildlife Service listed the Carson wandering skipper butterfly as an endangered
species on 8-7-02. The species was listed on a temporary, emergency basis in
The beautiful butterfly
is found only in Washoe County, NV where five individuals were located in 2001,
and in adjacent Lassen County, CA, where just "a few" individuals
were seen. It is susceptible to immediate extinction due to cattle grazing,
wetland degradation, water pumping, urban sprawl, and invasive non-native plants.
A petition to list the
skipper as an endangered species was filed by the Xerces Society on 11-10-00,
but the Wildlife Service refused to accept the petition because of an illegal
policy banning citizen petitions for species already on the Service's "candidate"
list. Like hundreds of other imperiled species, the skipper had been on the
federal "candidate list" since 1984 without being protected.
For more information on
the wandering skipper and the other 28 species involved in the species protection
AGREE PRINCE WILLIAM SOUND ORCAS AND HERRING HAVE NOT RECOVERED FROM EXXON VALDEZ
In response to requests
from the Center for Biological Diversity and other Alaska conservation groups,
the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council voted on 8-6-02 to not elevate the
status of the AB orca pod to "recovered," or the status of Pacific
herring in Prince William Sound to "recovering."
Alaska's Prince William
Sound is one of the world's richest marine and estuarine ecosystems. Thirteen
years ago, in the nation's worst oil spill, the Exxon Valdez, dumped 11 million
gallons of oil into the pristine Sound, killing sea otters, fish, birds, and
members of the AB orca pod. In the aftermath of the tragedy, the Exxon Valdez
Oil Spill Trustee Council was formed to track wildlife recovery efforts in the
Sound. In June 2002, the Trustee Council proposed upgrading the status of the
AB orca pod from a "recovering" to a "recovered" population.
The Council also proposed to move Pacific herring, a cornerstone of the Sound's
ecosystem health, from a "not recovering" status to a "recovering"
The AB pod is one of eight
resident killer whale pods found in Prince William Sound. In the aftermath of
the oil spill it suffered a 27% decline, bringing the population down to only
26 whales. In 1994, the Prince William Sound Pacific herring population experienced
an unprecedented crash when only 25% of expected adults returned to the Sound.
Since that time the herring population has yet to recruit a highly successful
year class, a fundamental sign of recovery for this species.
To find out more about
the Center's orca protection campaigns, click
ASKED TO CORRECT TAXONOMY OF IMPERILED PRINCE WILLIAM SOUND ORCAS
The Center for Biological
Diversity, the National Wildlife Federation, Alaska Center for the Environment,
Alaska Community Action on Toxics, Coastal Coalition, Defenders of Wildlife,
and the Eyak Preservation Council have asked the National Marine Fisheries Service
to revise its taxonomy of killer whales in Alaska in order to increase federal
protection for endangered orca populations.
Recent scientific information
has proven that the orca, once thought to be a single, globally distributed
species, is comprised of many genetically distinct and socially isolated populations.
Some of these populations are so distinct that they will soon be classified
as distinct species or subspecies.
However, the Fisheries
Service continues to classify transient killer in the Pacific as one large population.
This classification masks the fact that the AT1 population of orcas in Prince
William Sound is going extinct. The AT1 population, a genetically distinct and
isolated population of killer whales, was nearly extirpated by the Exxon Valdez
oil spill. Only nine individuals remain.
To find out more about
the Center's orca protection campaigns, click
ADMINISTRATION DECLARES EXTINCTION OF PUGET SOUND ORCAS IS "INSIGNIFICANT"-
LEGAL CHALLENGE IMMINENT
Setting a new low point
in the history of the endangered species conservation, the Bush administration
declared on 7-1-02 that the Puget Sound population of orcas is going extinct,
but should not be protected under the Endangered Species Act because its extinction
is "not significant". This is the first time in the history of the
Endangered Species Act that a presidential administration has OKed the extinction
of a plant or animal. The decision came in response to a petition filed by the
Center for Biological Diversity and others in May 2001.
A coalition of environmental
groups led by the Center for Biological Diversity filed a formal notice of intent
to sue the National Marine Fisheries Service on 8-6-02 over the decision. Other
groups joining the notice include Ocean Advocates, Orca Conservancy, Friends
of the San Juans, People for Puget Sound, Project SeaWolf, former Secretary
of State Ralph Munro, Karen Munro, and Earth Island Institute. The groups will
be represented by Brent Plater of the Center for Biological Diversity (Berkeley)
and Patty Goldman of Earthjustice (Seattle).
For more information on
the lawsuit, click