Obama Administration Quietly Announces Rule Changes, Substantially Weakens Endangered Species Act
Endangered species by county in the U.S. This includes only the species that have been listed, not the many still under (very slow) review. (Source; click to enlarge)
by Gaius Publius
Thanks to Jeffrey St. Clair at Counterpunch for this heads-up...
In related news, the Obama administration quietly announced today drastic rule changes that will substantially weaken the Endangered Species Act by placing complicated and intractable burdens on environmental groups working to protect rare species. The rule changes are deemed a huge gift to the timber, mining and oil cartels....we find another of what has to be called a betrayal by Barack Obama, once more selling out the public interest to those with plenty of cash to spread around. In this case it's the big-money people running the industries listed above — timber, mining and oil extraction.
The details, from Lydia Wheeler at The Hill (my emphasis):
Endangered species rule changed, angering environmental groupNote that this is being done entirely within the Executive Branch, at Barack Obama's sole discretion. No congressional stimulus was needed.
The Obama administration is changing the process for petitioning the government to protect an endangered or threatened animal.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries finalized a rule Monday that changes the process by which species are petitioned for listing, delisting or reclassification under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
Under the rule, first proposed in May 2015, petitioners will be required to notify each state wildlife agency where a species is located at least 30 days before submitting a petition to the federal government. The delay will gives states an opportunity to provide agencies with pertinent information on the species.
The new rule also restricts the number of species that can be petitioned for at one time. Under the rule, only one species is allowed per petition.
The lie is in the explanation of this industry-friendly change. As the article notes: "The agencies say the changes will allow them to better leverage limited resources and more effectively conserve America’s imperiled wildlife."
The opposite, of course, is true. The "limited resources" are a result of budget cuts, which means the agency is underfunded, and the statement that the rule will "more effectively" conserve imperiled wildlife, they mean "less effectively." According to Brett Hartl at the Center for Biological Diversity, the change will indeed further weaken enforcement of the Endangered Species Act:
These new restrictions on citizen petitions are nothing more than a gift to industries and right-wing states that are hostile to endangered species. ... These rules make it harder to get imperiled species the Endangered Species Act protections they desperately need and they do nothing to address the backlog of hundreds of imperiled species that are still waiting to get the protections they deserve.In addition, the change that requires petitioners to notify states prior to petitioning the Fish and Wildlife Service gives developers in those states a nice heads up.
The piece also notes that a legally mandated two-year process is taking more than a decade for most applications, thus the backlog. Note that the applications place species on the list — until listed, companies can do with them as they choose.
Your bottom line — Would a new Trump administration be almost completely evil, in this and most other regards? Of course. (I'll write more about how it would be evil if it looks like there may be one. Trump would be worse than Bush for one unique and simple reason. He won't be the one governing.)
But will a second Clinton administration be any better at protecting public resources from big-money campaign donors who want to exploit (monetize) and pillage them? Three guesses.