Like every leader on their way out the door, Bush hopes to make a few more last-minute changes before we get our much-needed new president. One of his maleficent plans is to gut the Endangered Species Act despite active, loud protesting from the environmental community.
As if his general lack of care (adding only 10 species a year to the act - even daddy Bush added close to 60 a year), trimmings and changes in 2004 weren't enough, Bush has put the Endangered Species in his sights yet again. His plans - to remove the clause that requires projects to receive scientific review of environmental impacts before proceeding. Current policy requires a biologist to review plans for projects to see if they will hurt endangered species. Instead, the job would be done by government agencies other than the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service, which have been the ones reviewing federal plans for more than 30 years.
Basically, he wants the government to self-regulate projects that might be damaging. Self-Regulate? Wow, because that always works soooo well.
President Bush has until Friday, Nov. 21, to publish the new rules if they are to take effect before he leaves office in January. If the rules go into effect before Obama takes office, they will be tough to overturn because the rule making process would have to be restarted - and we all know how quickly the government works when defending wildlife. Congress could overturn the changes through the use of the Congressional Review Act, but that hasn't been used in over a decade.
The scientific basis of the Endangered Species Act is what gives it authority and reputability. Without objective review, what is really left? How can the Act stand in the way of business and protect our wildlife if you cut out the review of the only groups that might care? Let's face it - if these rules are allowed to be put in place, the Act will become yet another piece of useless legislation that began with noble intentions and ended with futility.
Just to stick one more "screw you" into all of it, the rules also make it impossible to protect endangered species by saying that they are at risk because of global warming. It bars federal agencies from assessing emissions of the gases blamed for global warming on species and habitats when assessing plans. In Bush-speak: "Take that, Polar Bears! Global warming my ass!".
Thankfully, the Obama team have assured us that all of the "midnight regulations" done by Bush would be reviewed, and that Obama would work to repeal those that are not in the interest of the country. Let's hope!
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