Environment

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Charles Bennett/AP
A endangered peregrine falcon stands
over one of her two chicks.

Endangered Species May Lose Protection from Builders

August 13, 2008 07:01 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
The Department of the Interior announced Monday a plan to lessen federal oversight of construction projects that critics say could harm endangered species and plants.

Changes Proposed to Endangered Species Act

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The proposal would decrease the number of independent reviews conducted by government scientists on projects such as highways and dams. It would also ban federal agencies from analyzing greenhouse gas emissions from projects that could affect environment, according to MSNBC.

The office of Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne said in a press release that the changes consist of "common-sense modifications" to the Endangered Species Act. "These changes are designed to reduce the number of unnecessary consultations under the ESA so that more time and resources can be devoted to the protection of the most vulnerable species," the Interior Department said in its announcement.

Developers applauded the plan, saying that the current ESA process is too time-consuming and expensive. "We have always had concerns with respect to the need for streamlining and making it a more efficient process," said Joe Nelson, a lawyer for the National Endangered Species Act Reform Coalition, a trade group for homebuilders and the paper and farming industry, according to MSNBC.

But environmentalists say that the move is just another attempt by the Bush administration to decrease environmental regulation in general. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, told MSNBC that "This proposed regulation is another in a continuing stream of proposals to repeal our landmark environmental laws through the back door."

The Environment News Service
reported that the plan proposes "sweeping changes" to the ESA. "With these changes, the Bush administration threatens to undo more than 30 years of progress," said John Kostyack, an official with the National Wildlife Federation.

Related Topics: The Bush administration’s strong hand in environmental policy

But the plan to change the Endangered Species Act is not the only time critics have questioned the administration’s role in environmental policies.

The Environmental Protection Agency came under criticism earlier in May for instituting new regulations that allowed power plants near national parks, saying that the move would help regulate emissions.  The new rules rewrote a part of the Clean Air Act that dealt with "Class 1 areas," or federal lands that have the highest protection under the law, reports the Washington Post.

In July, the EPA also told its staff in an internal e-mail not to talk with congressional investigators, reporters or the agency's own inspector general. The e-mail, sent by Robbi Farrell, the Environmental Protection Agency's chief of staff, instructs 11 managers in the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance not to respond or make any statements if contacted by the Office of Inspector General or the Government Accountability Office."

Reference: Department of the Interior press release

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