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Center in Court to Stop Attack on Offshore-drilling Ban

With the Gulf disaster officially the biggest oil spill in North American history, this Wednesday the Center for Biological Diversity and allies stepped in on an oil-industry lawsuit that would prematurely cancel the Obama administration's deepwater-drilling moratorium. On June 7, despite millions of gallons of oil gushing out of the broken BP oil well and no end in sight, a company that provides services to oil rigs sued the administration, accusing it of violating the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act in issuing its six-month ban on certain deepwater oil-drilling projects. The Center and our partners are intervening on behalf of the federal government to preserve the moratorium and keep more drilling out of the ravaged Gulf.

"The moratorium on drilling is crucial to ensure that safety and environmental measures are in place to prevent the next Deepwater Horizon oil spill," said Miyoko Sakashita, oceans director at the Center. "This industry attempt to overturn the moratorium is an unacceptable gamble with the fate of the Gulf coast's human and natural environment."

Read our press release, learn more from Bloomberg Businessweek and get the latest on the Gulf disaster here. We've also created a new webpage listing all the Center's actions since the April 20 explosion.

Petition Filed to Prevent Drilling Without Environmental Review

The Center for Biological Diversity filed a legal petition Tuesday urging the White House and Interior to rescind the policy that allowed BP's ill-fated offshore Gulf oil drilling -- and hundreds of other plans -- to escape environmental review. BP's Deepwater Horizon drilling plan was approved in 2009 under the "categorical exclusion" policy, which exempted the exploration from careful review required by the National Environmental Policy Act -- and which has now led to the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history with no clear plan on how to stop the oil spilling into the Gulf waters and fouling the coastline. Despite the reality of the Gulf catastrophe, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has continued to let the Minerals Management Service rubberstamp new drilling plans without requiring environmental review, even after he declared an offshore drilling moratorium.

The White House's Council on Environmental Quality is reviewing the categorical exclusion policy but needs to act quickly to avert another disaster. Said the Center's Miyoko Sakashita, "It seems obvious to everyone, except perhaps those who are in charge, that the lax environmental oversight of Big Oil must end."

Check out our press release, read more in Law360 and take action today to require environmental review.

Oregon Trout, 500K Acres Saved From Livestock Destruction

Responding to a lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity and allies, a federal judge has ruled against a damaging U.S. Forest Service grazing plan to protect nearly 500,000 acres on Oregon's Malheur National Forest. In violation of the Endangered Species Act, the grazing has damaged more than 300 miles of important native trout streams, including federally safeguarded "critical habitat" for the threatened steelhead trout. According to the judge's ruling this month, the Forest Service failed to stop damage to areas key to the steelhead's survival, failed to consult with the National Marine Fisheries Service about the plan's effect on the fish, and made "empty promises" while relying on a plan without mandatory monitoring and enforcement measures. In conjunction with the judge's decision, an earlier agreement between the Forest Service and the Center and allies makes the agency and permittees responsible for ensuring steelhead streams aren't harmed by grazing.

Read more in the Bend Bulletin.

Senate Rejects Move to Gut Clean Air Act

In a major win for the climate and air we breathe, the U.S. Senate last Thursday rejected a bill by Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski that would have blocked the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. Besides eviscerating the country's best existing tool to tackle climate change, Murkowski's bill would have given Congress the power to enact sweeping energy and climate legislation without submitting to the EPA's strict requirements -- leaving lawmakers wide open to industry influence. Thanks to everyone who took action to urge their senators to vote no on this dangerous bill.

"The Senate was right to turn back this wrong-headed bill," said Center for Biological Diversity Executive Director Kierán Suckling. "The Environmental Protection Agency must be allowed to do its job, which includes using the Clean Air Act to protect the air we breathe and taking the necessary steps to avoid catastrophic climate change. Any attempts to gut the Clean Air Act -- no matter from which side of the aisle and what form of bill -- ought to be rejected."

Learn more in The Epoch Times and read the Center's full statement.

Center Demands Pollution Limits for U.S. Coal Mines

Calling on the Environmental Protection Agency to make public health and safety a priority, this Wednesday the Center for Biological Diversity and four allies petitioned for national limits on air pollution from all U.S. coal mines. Our legal petition calls on the EPA to exercise its authority under the Clean Air Act to list coal mines as the source of harmful pollution they are, as well as to ensure that coal-mine pollution is kept in check by the best emissions-reduction systems. The EPA has taken such steps for gravel mines, coal-fired power plants, coal-processing plants and dozens of other sources -- but coal mines have so far evaded national limits on their dirty discharge.

Our petition coincides with increasing attention on coal mine-emitted methane -- a major safety hazard, potent greenhouse gas and key ingredient of smog. Other toxic air pollutants we focus on are particulate matter; volatile organic compounds; and nitrogen oxide, whose dense orange clouds provide an especially visible example of the pollution problem.

Read more in The Colorado Independent.

Lawsuit Launched to Save Seven Species

To save seven species long overdue for protection, this Wednesday the Center for Biological Diversity filed a notice of intent to sue the feds for failing to heed the plights of these rare animals and plants hailing from nearly every U.S. region. Our lawsuit will compel the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to respond to petitions requesting Endangered Species Act protections for the plains bison, striped newt, Berry Cave salamander, Puerto Rico harlequin butterfly, Ozark chinquapin tree, western gull-billed tern and Mohave ground squirrel. The Center has successfully sued for several of these species before, but the Fish and Wildlife Service has continued to miss legal deadlines for advancing them toward protection.

In addition to the seven species included in this notice, there are currently 252 species designated by the Fish and Wildlife Service as "candidates" for protection --most of which have been waiting decades for a place on the endangered species list. "Like the Bush administration, the Obama administration is failing to provide prompt protection to wildlife desperately in need of protection," said the Center's endangered species director, Noah Greenwald. "With threats growing every day, there's no justification for delaying protection for species in need."

Check out our press release and learn more about our campaign to save America's 1,000 most endangered species.

EPA Sued Over CO2 From Planes, Ships, Non-road Engines

The day after the Senate upheld the Environmental Protection Agency's authority to regulate greenhouse gases, the Center for Biological Diversity and allies filed a suit challenging the agency's failure to address pollution from ships, aircraft and non-road vehicles, as well as engines such as those used in industrial operations. Together, greenhouse gases from these sources make up a whopping 24 percent of U.S. mobile-source greenhouse emissions and annually spew out about 290,000 tons of black carbon, or soot -- one of the most potent but short-lived climate-changing pollutants. Pollution form all these sources are projected to grow rapidly in the next few decades.

In 2008 the Center, Oceana, Friends of the Earth, the Center for Food Safety and the International Center for Technology Assessment petitioned the EPA to determine whether greenhouse emissions from ships, planes, and non-road vehicles and engines endangered public health, but the agency still hasn't responded. We'll keep you updated as our work to regulate dirty air pollution continues.

Get more from and read our press release.

Deadly Bat Epidemic Spreads to Ninth Species

In scary news for bats and humans who rely on them for pest control, the fatal disease called white-nose syndrome has just been discovered in a new bat species: the southeastern myotis. It's the ninth species -- but almost certainly not the last -- to be afflicted by the lethal illness, which has now spread to 14 states, from New Hampshire to Oklahoma. In the four years since it's been documented in the United States, the disease has killed more than a million bats, including endangered Indiana and gray bats. Bat populations in states affected the longest, like New York, Vermont and Massachusetts, have plunged to frighteningly low levels, and scientists predict that the disease could completely wipe out one or more bat species in a few years' time. And scariest of all, there is still no cure or effective treatment for afflicted bats. Despite the grim outlook and calls for increased funding from the Center for Biological Diversity and allies, the feds haven't devoted sufficient money yet to combat white-nose syndrome.

The Center has been working to save bats from the disease since it first showed up in the Northeast. We're now asking the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Department of the Interior to appoint a full-time, high-level white-nose syndrome director and submit a federal budget request to fund disease research. They should also complete a national white-nose-syndrome plan, which has been in development for almost a year. We also joined allies to request $5 million to be set aside to fight the white-nose crisis in 2011.

Read more in TIME and take action for bats now.

Northeast Wolves Denied Recognition and Recovery Plan

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service took a step in the wrong direction last week when it comes to restoring wolves to their historic habitat. Shunning a legal petition from a group of concerned citizens, the agency decided not to protect gray wolves in the Northeast as a "distinct population segment" under the Endangered Species Act. This special designation would have required the development of a recovery plan, which wolves in the Northeast currently lack. 

The Center for Biological Diversity is pushing for a nationwide recovery plan for gray wolves, with goals developed for regional recovery, including the Northeast. Although the Northeast contains extensive habitat for gray wolves -- and in fact, eight wolves have reportedly been killed there in recent decades -- the Service says the region's wolves don't deserve protection because no breeding pairs have been spotted there. And while wolves in the Northeast are technically protected under the Act, which is supposed to cover wolves in the continental United States, the Service has recently been dividing this protection among discrete wolf populations so that safeguards can be removed in some areas. This leaves wolves in the Northeast, and other areas without breeding populations, in legal limbo, and with little chance of ever actually returning to their rightful spot atop the region's food chain. Northeast wolves are also particularly vulnerable to being shot "by mistake" as large coyotes -- so the gun-happy shooters claim -- because the federal government has done so little in the region to promote wolf protection, including public education and law enforcement.

A national recovery plan would help shield all endangered gray wolves and would help them establish themselves in the Northeast and other regions with suitable habitat. As the Center's Northeast Conservation Advocate Mollie Matteson says, "With wolves occupying less than 10 percent of their historic range in the United States, it's too early to remove their protection anywhere."

Get more from

Suit Challenges Dirt-cheap Grazing on 258 Million Public Acres

The Center for Biological Diversity and our allies are attacking the national sweetheart deal that ranchers get for grazing their cattle on public land. The Center and others sued the Interior and Agriculture departments last Thursday for subsidizing destructive grazing on public lands. The current monthly fee charged to the livestock industry -- an unreal bargain of just $1.35 per cow and calf --  doesn't even cover the administrative costs of operating the livestock program. That leaves U.S. taxpayers to fund the difference -- with nothing leftover to pay for grazing's environmental effects, from stream and watershed degradation to erosion and nonnative species spread, all of which can contribute to endangered species' decline.

Our suit will force the feds to confront a legal petition filed by the Center in 2005 that sought to raise the federal grazing fee to an amount that's fiscally responsible and less ecologically harmful.

Get more from the Courthouse News Service.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

Photo credits: gull-billed tern courtesy Wikimedia Commons/J.M. Garg; oil rig courtesy Flickr/vicky Brock; Deepwater Horizon explosion courtesy U.S. Coast Guard; steelhead trout by Ken Hammond, USDA; power plant courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Gretar Ivarsson; coal mine courtesy BLM; plains bison (c) Jason Hickey; airplane courtesy Wikimedia Commons/U.S. Department of Defense; white-nose syndrome by Al Hickes, New York Department of Environmental Conservation; gray wolf courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Chris Muiden; cows in the mist courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Pikaluk.

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