For Immediate Release, October 2, 2014
Contact: Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495
New Analysis Debunks Oil and Gas Industry Group's Claims on Endangered Species
PORTLAND, Ore.— A Center for Biological Diversity analysis of an oil and gas industry report on the Endangered Species Act finds it riddled with errors and false claims. Among the most specious errors in the Western Energy Alliance report is a claim that the Center has filed more petitions and lawsuits since reaching a landmark settlement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service requiring the agency to speed protections for 757 species across the country. In fact, the Center has filed petitions for 84 percent fewer species since the 2011 settlement and 65 percent fewer lawsuits.
“The Western Energy Alliance report is either exceptionally sloppy or utterly cynical. Either way it’s ginning up fairytales in the hopes of hiding its opposition to helping wildlife that are being pushed to the brink of extinction,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director with the Center. “Instead of a misinformation campaign, the oil and gas industry ought to be focused on making sure they don’t drive the sage grouse, lesser prairie chicken and many more species into oblivion.”
In the three years preceding signing of the settlement agreement in July 2011, the Center filed 20 petitions to protect 466 species under the Endangered Species Act and 26 lawsuits to protect species. By contrast, in the three years since, the Center has filed 16 petitions to protect 76 species and nine lawsuits against the Fish and Wildlife Service to protect species.
The reduction is the result of the success of the settlement agreement, which was designed to spur decisions on hundreds of species that have been on the waiting list for years, sometimes decades. So far 138 species have been protected under the agreement, including the yellow-billed cuckoo, Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog and Miami blue butterfly.
The Western Energy Alliance report includes many other falsehoods:
- The report wrongly claims that since the Endangered Species Act was passed “it has only managed a 2% success rate.” This premise is based on the fact that only 2 percent of protected species have been fully recovered and delisted, but fails to recognize that most species have not been protected long enough to have fully recovered. Research by the Center found that on average recovery is expected to take 46 years for species, but the majority of listed species have been protected 20 years or less. Hundreds of species are recovering under the protections of the Act at the rate predicted by federal scientists (see The Endangered Species Act: A Wild Success).
- The report wrongly claims that “in 2011, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service spent over 75% of its $20.9 million listing and critical habitat budget responding to litigation from environmental groups.” In fact, agency documents show that the agency typically spends 2 percent or less of the listing budget on litigation costs.
- The report wrongly claims that litigation diverts “resources away from actual species recovery and into litigation and bureaucratic process,” and that the Center files lawsuits to “line our pockets.” In truth, the government only pays attorneys fees when the Center prevails and these fees in most cases do not come out of the Fish and Wildlife Service’s budget, but rather something called the Judgment Fund, which is administered by Department of Justice. Over the past ten years, attorney fees collected from the federal government by the Center have constituted less than 5 percent of the Center's annual budget.
- The report claims that the settlement agreement excluded “the public, elected officials, state and local governments, job-creating businesses, and other stakeholders.” In reality, the settlement agreement requires that protection decisions be made utilizing all the existing procedures, including allowing for substantial public comment and input.
- Finally, the report claims the Center’s agreement and another with WildEarth Guardians contain 1,008 species, but the two agreements together contain 878 species.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 775,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.