The Bush administration wants to slow walk worker protection regulations, even when required by law, through the use of additional layers of review by the Office of Management and Budget. We wrote about this recently here (and see Celeste Monforton’s excellent work at The Pump Handle). But let’s be fair. The Bush administration doesn’t always want to slow up rule making. At least not when wealthy land developers or their cronies in federal agencies are concerned:
The Bush administration wants federal agencies to decide for themselves whether highways, dams, mines and other construction projects might harm endangered animals and plants. New regulations, which don’t require the approval of Congress, would reduce the mandatory, independent reviews government scientists have been performing for 35 years, according to a draft obtained by The Associated Press.
The draft rules also would bar federal agencies from assessing the emissions from projects that contribute to global warming and its effect on species and habitats.
If approved, the changes would represent the biggest overhaul of the Endangered Species Act since 1988. They would accomplish through regulations what conservative Republicans have been unable to achieve in Congress: ending some environmental reviews that developers and other federal agencies blame for delays and cost increases on many projects.
The changes would apply to any project a federal agency would fund, build or authorize. Government wildlife experts currently perform tens of thousands of such reviews each year. (Dina Capiello, Forbes)
If this evisceration of the Endangered Species Act has a smell reminiscent of efforts by vile California Republican former CongressThing Richard Pombo (an Abramoff crony flushed from Congress by the mild laxative of the 2006 election) it should. Pombo tried to gut the Endangered Species Act, too. He succeeded in the House but it went down in the Senate. If they couldn’t get it through a Republican Congress, they wouldn’t bother with the current Democratic one (spineless as it is) so they aren’t going to bother asking Congress. They are going to do it in the form of a Rule. Once published there is a 60 day public comment period and then presto: Endangered Species Act is neutered.
Understand what this does. Now a federal agency has to ask experts in one of the relevant federal agencies (Fish and Wildlife or Marine Fisheries) to assure that a project will not have a serious effect on endangered species and to minimize any effects the project might have. Now all the federal agency has to do is ask itself. No problem:
The Interior Department said such consultations are no longer necessary because federal agencies have developed expertise to review their own construction and development projects, according to the 30-page draft obtained by the AP.
“We believe federal action agencies will err on the side of caution in making these determinations,” the proposal said.
No one else believes this, however.
In 2003, the administration imposed similar rules that would have allowed agencies to approve new pesticides and projects to reduce wildfire risks without asking the opinion of government scientists about whether threatened or endangered species and habitats might be affected. The pesticide rule was later overturned in court. The Interior Department, along with the Forest Service, is currently being sued over the rule governing wildfire prevention.
It’s not just the courts, who are skeptical. Internal reviews by the National Marine Fisheries Service and Fish and Wildlife Service revealed that when there was no check by an independent agency on the wildfire prevention projects almost half weren’t legally or scientifically valid. Moreover the new Rules are not the product of experts but of attorneys. Experts weren’t consulted until the draft was finished last week. If you can call that consulting experts. I don’t. I call that lawyers notifying experts.
So while there are now only 159 days left in the Bush administration they can still do damage and this is an example of some damage it looks like they will do.
Who cares about biodiversity, anyway? Not when there is money to be made in real estate development and logging and who knows what other businesses Bush cronies are interested in.
The Bushies are one species I won’t mind seeing go extinct.