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For Immediate Release, March 10, 2009

Contact: Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495

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

WASHINGTON, D.C.— Congress today passed an omnibus appropriations bill that gives the Obama administration power to rescind rules weakening both the Endangered Species Act and protections for the polar bear. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar will now be able to rescind rules without going through a new, formal rulemaking process. This legislation gives the administration authority above that utilized in President Barack Obama’s memorandum issued last week, which directed federal agencies to follow the old rules.

“This legislation makes it much easier for the administration to remove rules weakening both the Endangered Species Act and protections for the polar bear,” said Noah Greenwald, biodiversity program director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “This is Secretary Salazar’s first opportunity to really set himself apart from the previous administration.”

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 harm 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, which is the leading threat to the bears, from regulation under the Act.

“The plight of endangered species has dramatically improved with the change in administration and changes in Congress,” said Greenwald. “We are hopeful that President Obama will sign the Omnibus Appropriations and that Secretary Salazar will move quickly to rescind these rules.”

Without the language in the bill, the Obama administration would have had to enter a lengthy rulemaking process to undo completely the rules even after President Obama issued a memorandum. Instead, the administration will simply be able to rescind the Bush rules, and the old rules will take effect immediately.

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