February 23, 2009

needed ESA rules in jeopardy

By needed ESA rules in jeopardy

The AP reports that House Democrats have proposed a $410 billion spending bill for federal spending for the rest of the year. We're also learning that the bill would give Obama administration officials "carte blanche" authority to overturn two key Endangered Species Act rules adopted during President Bush's last months. From E&E News (subscription required):

At issue are two rules the Bush administration finalized in December: one that scaled back longstanding safeguards for endangered species and another that limited protections for the polar bear.

The Bush administration's Interior Department published the rules in time for them to enter into force before President Obama took office — leaving little recourse for the new administration without starting over with the federal regulatory process. Usually new regulations require agencies to follow strict guidelines for public notice and comment, a process that takes months to years to complete.

But the new spending bill would change all of that for the ESA rules, making it possible for the new administration to throw them out immediately. The bill includes language that says the Interior or Commerce secretaries can withdraw or reissue the endangered species and polar bear rules within 60 days "without regard to any provision of statute or regulation."

There's sure to be more on this in the near future. Although these rules did not cure each and every ill of the Endangered Species Act, they at least eased the burden the law normally has on the regulated public. For previous analyses on these rules, visit here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

Let's hope that members of Congress do not let this latest proposal slide without engaging in a full debate on the rules' merits.

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