Obama Suspends Bush ESA Rule:

Among the Bush Administration's more controversial, last-minute regulatory changes was a rule to relax the consultation requirement under Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act. Specifically, the rule allowed federal agencies the latitude to make their own initial determination as to whether they had to engage in consultation with the Fish and Wildlife Service or National Marine Fisheries Service over the potential adverse impacts on endangered or threatened species of activities funded, permitted, or undertaken by the federal government. In a presidential memorandum issued yesterday, President Obama called upon Interior and Commerce Departments (homes to the Fish & Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service, respectively) to reconsider the rule. Perhaps more significantly, the President also instructed all agency heads to "exercise their discretion, under the new regulation, to follow the prior longstanding consultation and concurrence practices involving the FWS and NMFS." In other words, federal agencies are to act as if the Bush Administration rule were never adopted, until such time the Obama Administration is able to put in place a new rule of its own.

Reactions to the memo are largely what one would expect. Environmentalists cheered, while industry warned of greater costs and permitting delays. From the Washington Post:

Francesca Grifo of the Union of Concerned Scientists, an activist group, said the switch would help guard against the potential conflicts of interest and lack of expertise that could color decision making by any agency hoping to press ahead with a particular project. "After years of scientific scandal, the Interior Department and its partner agencies need desperately to regain credibility by making decisions with honesty, clarity, and transparency," Grifo said.

But Bill Kovacs, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's vice president of environment, technology and regulatory affairs, said reviving another layer of review "will result in even greater delays to projects -- including stimulus-backed, job-creating projects -- as agencies now grapple with the prospect of lengthy inter-agency consultations to determine, for instance, if a bridge project in Florida contributes to the melting of Arctic ice. This is such a departure from the spirit and the letter of the Endangered Species Act that we wonder if the law's drafters would even recognize it today."

A big question is how this rule will effect agency consultation obligations for actions that result in increased greenhouse gas emissions. Now that the polar bear is listed as a threatened species, some environmental groups argue that large projects permitted or funded by the federal government should be subject to Section 7 consultation due to their potential contribution to climate change and the consequent effect on polar bears. The Obama Administration, however, appears to be taking a slightly different view.
Administration officials said the move is not likely to trigger broad use of the Endangered Species Act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. While the Bush rule specifically prohibited endangered species consultations on the basis of "global processes" such as climate change, an Interior official who asked not to be identified said under the new policy such a review would only be triggered if scientific evidence suggested "a causal connection" between emissions from a federal project and its effect on specific imperiled species or an identifiable part of its habitat.

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Houston Lawyer:
How does one prove that a highway expansion built in Texas won't result in more driving, hence more carbon being burned, all to the detriment of polar bears? Logically, no new construction would be permitted evah.
3.4.2009 10:41am
Suzy (mail):
Is that what we can honestly expect to see happen? No new construction ever?
3.4.2009 11:17am
Bill Snowden (mail):
Here's a thought: Let's rescind the ESA (and NEPA, too, for good measure) and see what changes.

Oh, wait. It's about feeling good, not about actually accomplishing anything.

3.4.2009 11:25am
Yes, Suzy, there really is a gigantic regulatory agency which can (and will) prevent new construction. But, it's to protect the endangered species which you have put in grave harm by driving your car, heating your home, and cooking food. BTW, vegetables can be eaten raw, so put away that grilled cheese and pick up a Brussels sprout.
3.4.2009 11:32am
Daryl Herbert (www):
Not all construction.

Just whatever construction it damn well pleases.

Which means you're going to have to pay off a politician (through campaign donations or outright bribes) if you want to build anything.
3.4.2009 12:27pm
Suzy (mail):
I have yet to uncover evidence of even one road construction project in my state--an area I know something about--that was halted because of environmental concerns. I do know of building or other site construction plans that were changed because of floodplain or wetland considerations, but that's because it's not often a terrific or inexpensive idea to build in such a location. It's not because our hearts are bleeding for anything non-vegetable.
3.4.2009 12:28pm
Sarcastro (www):
Where are the Snowdens of yesteryear?

The EPA has already killed America with it's massive power to stop construction. Well, it'll have to be joint and several with Obama's stimulus, Obama's budget, taxes in general and abortion.
3.4.2009 3:29pm
Semper Why (mail):
Suzy, come to Maryland where the Inter-County Connector has been held up for years because of environmental studies, impact assessments and whatever other roadblock the green lobby can throw at the project. It's been in the planning stages since 1980 or so and has somehow survived no less than two environmental impact studies that said the ICC wasn't worth the environmental detestation.

I think they finally built about eight miles of it so far.
3.4.2009 4:13pm
John Moore (www):
Suzy, go to Lawrence, Kansas where the K-10 bypass has been held up for decades by first the environmentalists, and then, the Native Americans at Haskell Indian Institute who said it would harm their meditations.

Or, check out the time it took to put the telescopes on Mt. Graham, Arizona - because it would "endanger" a rare sub-species of the common Red Squirrel. This in spite of the fact that there was already a paved road to the peak and a large radio site. Sure enough, when the enviros finally lost in court, the Native Americans fought it because it was a "sacred peak."

Do you see a pattern?
3.4.2009 6:55pm
John Moore (www):
BTW, Conservatives have been trying to force Washington, D.C. to abide by various environmental regulations which they just ignore. This is so our "betters" in Congress can enjoy the same benefits we do.
3.4.2009 6:56pm
Suzy (mail):
Two cases, both of which had to do with some other kind of political controversy (Native Americans protesting)? No, I don't see a pattern. The situation in Maryland also strikes me as unusual--28 years? Despite lengthy periods of time in which federal environmental restrictions were reduced?

Development plans go forward all the time with agreements about how to handle environmental impact. Is it a bad idea to have those studies? Again, we don't just do them because we want to protect a special beetle or squirrel, but because we don't want millions of dollars lost when a flood or other disaster occurs that we could have prevented with better planning. Will the roadway be more expensive to maintain than its worth, if the environmental impact can't be managed? These are very practical considerations.
3.5.2009 1:08pm
John Moore (www):

Two cases, both of which had to do with some other kind of political controversy (Native Americans protesting)? No, I don't see a pattern.

Oh please. These are examples from my own experience. I have read of literally hundreds like these.

The Native American issue was AFTER the environmental issue in both cases.

Ultimately, lefties didn't want these projects to go forward, so they used whatever they could to stop them.

That's normal for almost every development project in the US>
3.5.2009 7:15pm

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