Wednesday, September 28, 2016

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 group

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.
Note that this is being done entirely within the Executive Branch, at Barack Obama's sole discretion. No congressional stimulus was needed.

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.


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At 11:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Obama discovers executive orders in his last year! Does this mean that he could have been doing things all along despite those mean old Republicans? Of course. Well, better things, one hopes. What a loser.

At 12:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Gaius. I love your articles. Very revealing, interesting and well written.

More disappointment from Obama. Sad, sad. He would have been considered a moderate Republican twenty years ago. Look how far the Democrats have come. Not.

Perhaps if those third party votes did not occur in the Bush-Gore election, e.g., New Hampshire, Gore would have become President. Wow, he would have considered environmental issues a real priority!

Imagine what damage Trump will do if he gets into office. Probably the national parks would be open for privatizing. This is no joke.

At 4:38 PM, Blogger Dameocrat said...

Gore never ran on climate change in 2000. His record on it was very poor being that he refused to support ratifying the Kyoto protocol. He never displayed a commitment to it till after he retired from office, just like he never displayed a commitment to peace when it counted. Obama recently announced his post-political career will focus on climate change too.

At 6:00 PM, Blogger Skeptical Partisan said...

It's part of a larger pattern that's played out poorly in China and the former USSR/Russia. Groups of powerful people who, in their zeal to stay in power or grab more power, will exploit every resource at their disposal. In China and China and the former USSR/Russia party heads/oligarchs wreaked massive environmental damage to this end. In the U.S., capitalists are doing the thing. It's a far riskier proposition now than in the past because climate change is not bound by borders; it affects the global ecosystem/environment. It's shameful that Obama made this change but it is in no way unexpected.

At 5:37 AM, Blogger jvb2718 said...

I wish people would just quit bitching about Nader in the 2K election. Gore suppressed his own vote by running a shitty, passionless campaign (against a moron) and naming a rightwing fascist neocon neoliberal warmonger as his veep (though cheney was worse, though marginally). He then turtled when facing the courts in the florida recount. And he turtled again when the CBC raised an objection during the ratification of the electoral result. And Gore was among the founders of the DLC which corrupted the democrap party forever. No guarantee he wouldn't have sold out a few birds and turtles (!) for corporate bribes.

But it is still useful to draw the straight line from the DLC to obamanation's horrible admin, of which this latest is on that same vector.

Another "well done" to GP.

At 5:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Add this latest to the constantly growing list here:

Too bad this piece of shit will be revered by his voters. After his election in 2008, I could not have imagined he'd have been this awful. Worst democrat unitary ever. By the time it's all tallied, he has a good chance of being the worst prez of any party ever.


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