Bush Admin Challenged on Midnight Reg Gutting Endangered Species Law

     SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – Federal agencies are no longer required to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service before proceeding with actions that may threaten endangered species, the Center for Biological Diversity claims in Federal Court.




     The environmental group claims the new standards, enacted by the Interior and Commerce departments, also drastically weaken regulatory standards established during the Reagan administration, replacing them with vague, incoherent and undefined terms that will invariably lead to inconsistent application, agency confusion and decreased protection for species on the brink of extinction.
     According to the lawsuit, the new rules give federal agencies, including those with poor records of complying with environmental regulations, unprecedented authority to assess the impact of their own actions, do not require personnel go through any training, establish even minimal scientific qualifications before making decisions or provide any oversight to ensure the agencies are following the new standards.
     The plaintiffs cite the proposed Desert Rock coal power plant in New Mexico, which would produce greenhouse gas emissions and affect the climate and other aspects of critical habitats for protected species including the Colorado pikeminow and staghorn coral, as just one environmentally damaging project allowed under the new standards.
     In addition to violating the Endangered Species Act, the Center for Biological Diversity claims the departments breached the Administrative Procedure Act by denying the public the opportunity to comment on and influence the new regulations.
     The environmental group, represented by Lisa Belenky, along with co-plaintiffs Greenpeace and Defenders of Wildlife, want orders declaring the regulations illegal and setting them aside along with attorney fees and other relief the court deems proper.

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