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For Immediate Release, April 23, 2009

Contact: Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495

Pressure Mounting on Secretary Salazar to Rescind Bush Administration
Regulations That Weaken the Endangered Species Act

WASHINGTON, D.C.— Eight senators sent Interior Secretary Ken Salazar a letter today requesting he rescind two rules passed in the final days of the Bush administration that weaken the Endangered Species Act. One of these rules exempts thousands of federal activities, including those that generate greenhouse gases, from review under the Endangered Species, and the other sharply limits protections for the threatened polar bear. The letter follows a similar letter sent by 44 members of the House of Representatives and delivery of more than 80,000 petitions by the Center for Biological Diversity and Greenpeace.

Congress passed legislation on March 10 giving Secretary Salazar power until May 9 to rescind the rules with the stroke of a pen. Secretary Salazar has said he is reviewing the rules, but did not indicate whether they will be rescinded. Secretary of Commerce Locke has also been given joint authority with Salazar to rescind the 11th hour rules.

“Congress and the American people have spoken loud and clear that they want these rules rescinded,” said Noah Greenwald, biodiversity program director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Failure to rescind both rules in full will be a major step backward from President Obama’s pledge to strengthen the Endangered Species Act.”

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. 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.

“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 was signed by senators Feinstein (Chair of the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee), Boxer (Chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee), Durbin (Senate Majority Whip), Kerry (Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee), Cardin (Chairman of Water and Wildlife Subcommittee), Sanders (Chairman of EPW Green Jobs and New Economy Subcommittee) and Whitehouse (Chairman of EPW Oversight Subcommittee), and Wyden (Chairman of Public Lands and Forests Subcommittee) and requested that Secretary Salazar “act quickly to rescind the Bush rules.”

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