Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Environment

The White House--photo by Jake Putnam

WASHINGTON – President George W. Bush wants to relax endangered species rules and regulations before President-elect Obama takes office January 20th.

In October The Interior Department rushed to complete the new rules over the objections of lawmakers and environmentalists who argued that they would weaken conservation laws.

The rules must be published the Friday before President-elect Obama is sworn into Office in January, Otherwise the new President can undo them with just a signature.

Critics have complained that federal wildlife scientists in some endangered species cases failed to use all the science available allowing the federal agency in charge of building, authorizing and funding a project to determine if it’s likely to harm endangered wildlife and plants.

Under current rules wildlife biologists must sign off on these decisions before a project can go forward, at times delaying projects indefinately and running up costs while claiming to protect species.

"If the new rules go into effect before the Obama Administration takes office, they’ll be hard to reverse because the administration would have to restart the rule-making process," said Idaho Farm Bureau President Frank Priestley. But a Democrat controlled Congress could reverse the rules through the Congressional Review Act — a law that reviews new federal rules and regulations.

The Bush administration was vocal of its intentions to scrap the parts of the endangered species act. When the proposal was first announced in August, the public was given a month to comment and then doubled after Democratic lawmakers pressed for more time.

If successful, the Bush administration will do what Congressional Republicans couldn’t do in decades: ending endless environmental reviews that critics blame for delays and cost overuns on many projects.

Property Rights Advocate groups like the The Pacific Legal Foundation wants the new rules approved ASAP. "Litigious activists have used the Endangered Species Act to fight projects," Reed Hopper, the foundation's principal attorney, said "The administration's current proposal is a step toward curbing these abuses."

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