Saturday, March 31, 2007

Negating the election

-- by Dave

One of the sunnier outcomes of last November's elections was the defeat of Rep. Richard Pombo, the Republican chair of the House Resources Committee who was the leader of the faction of extremists hoping to gut the Endangered Species Act.

But environmentalists are discovering that the assault on the ESA is continuing apace, thanks to the Bush administration, which has announced that it intends to pick up where Pombo left off with a new set of Interior Department regulations intended to achieve the same effect as Pombo's now-dead legislative attempts:
The U.S. Interior Department is preparing a wide-ranging set of regulations which substantially weaken the federal Endangered Species Act, according to internal documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) and the Center for Biological Diversity.

"These draft regulations slash the Endangered Species Act from head to toe," said Kieran Suckling, policy director of the Center for Biological Diversity. "They undermine every aspect of law - recovery, listing, preventing extinction, critical habitat, federal oversight and habitat conservation plans -- all of it is gutted."

The draft regulations would:

—Remove recovery of a species or population as a protection standard;

—Allow projects to proceed that have been determined to threaten species with extinction;

—Permit destruction of all restored habitat within critical habitat areas;

—Prevent critical habitat areas from being used to protect against disturbance, pesticides, exotic species, and disease;

—Severely limit the listing of new endangered species; and

—Empower states to veto endangered species introductions as well as administer virtually all aspects of the Endangered Species Act within their borders.

"Kicking responsibility for endangered species protection to the states will make it nearly impossible to restore national oversight when states fail to protect endangered species," stated Southwest PEER Director Daniel R. Patterson. "State biologists will be under enormous political pressure to accommodate development interests while lacking, in many cases, even rudimentary legal protection to defend scientific concerns about species survival."

As the Common Dreams story explains, the administration has been upfront in announcing its intent to carry on the right-wing dream of gutting the ESA:
Following the collapse of former U.S. Representative Richard Pombo's efforts to legislatively weaken the Endangered Species Act in 2006, the Bush administration pledged to use administrative rulemaking to accomplish some of the same objectives.

Now, it's unlikely that anyone views the larger election outcome to the Republican record on environmental issues, but the larger picture from the vote -- a rejection of conservative malfeasance on many fronts, including the war, the economy, and the environment, including global warming -- suggests at the very least the public was demanding accountability from an administration that to date has behaved like a power-mad elephant rampaging through the global china shop.

And yet, at every turn, this administration has defied this message and refused to shape its behavior or its policies in a way that acknowledged any kind of accountability whatsoever, whether on the war, the economy, or the many investigations into its malfeasance. These pending regulations reflect just how broadly Bush and his cohorts intend to take this damn-the-voters mentality.

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