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Brown Joined by Eight States in Seeking to Thwart Bush Administration Effort to Gut the Endangered Species Act

Friday, January 16, 2009
Contact: (415) 703-5837

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 16, 2009
Contact: Christine Gasparac (916) 324-5500

Brown Joined by Eight States in Seeking to Thwart
Bush Administration Effort to Gut the Endangered Species Act

SAN FRANCISCO – California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr.’s effort to overturn an eleventh hour move by the Bush Administration to gut provisions in the Endangered Species Act received a major boost today when eight states – Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, and Rhode Island – signed on to his lawsuit.

“There is broad and deep opposition to the Bush Administration’s effort to gut the Endangered Species Act,” Attorney General Brown said. “It is my hope that the new Obama Administration will take a fresh look at these rules and restore the independent scientific review of projects affecting endangered species, which has been a hallmark of the ESA for 35 years.”

The new regulations, initially proposed by the Departments of the Interior and Commerce in August 2008, largely eliminate a requirement in the Endangered Species Act that mandates scientific review of federal agency decisions that might affect endangered and threatened species and their habitats.

The changes allow the Fish and Wildlife Service to permit mining, logging, and other commercial activities to take place on federal land and other areas subject to federal regulatory control without review or comment from federal wildlife biologists on the environmental effects of such activities on endangered and threatened species and their habitat.

The new regulations are the most significant changes to the Endangered Species Act and its implementing regulations in over 20 years. Now that these regulations have been adopted, many decisions on whether to permit commercial activity on federal land or issue federal permits or licenses will be made at the sole discretion of federal agency project proponents, without input from biological experts at the federal wildlife agencies. Federal project agencies generally lack adequate biological expertise and have incentives to conclude that their projects will not have adverse affects on endangered and threatened species and their habitat.

The changes also eliminate the requirement to consider the effects of greenhouse gas emissions on species and ecosystems from proposed federal projects. Federal agencies now no longer need to consider the possible adverse impacts on species like the polar bear from commercial projects that require federal approval or funding such as highway construction and coal-fired power plants.

The lawsuit, which was filed last December in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, alleges that the Bush Administration:

• Violated the Endangered Species Act by adopting regulations that are inconsistent with that statute;
• Violated the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to consider the environmental ramifications of the proposed new regulations; and
• Violated the Administrative Procedures Act by not adequately considering public comments submitted by the Attorney General and numerous other organizations and concerned citizens.

The Attorney General’s lawsuit follows three similar lawsuits challenging the regulations filed earlier by environmental groups.

Attorney General Brown’s amended complaint challenging the regulations and comments on the proposed regulations are attached.

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