The Bush administration Monday proposed a regulatory overhaul of the Endangered Species Act to allow federal agencies to decide whether protected species would be imperiled by agency projects, eliminating the independent scientific reviews that have been required for more than three decades.
….Afterward, in a telephone call with reporters, Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne described the rules as a “narrow regulatory change” that “will provide clarity and certainty to the consultation process under the Endangered Species Act.”
I swear, sometimes all you can do is sit back and admire the chutzpah. This executive order would basically allow, say, the Army Corps of Engineers, to decide for itself if their projects were endangering any species — a process that would likely take them no more than about five minutes per species — and Kempthorne describes it as a “narrow” regulatory change. In other news, Vladimir Putin described his recent military adventures in South Ossetia as a “narrow” redeployment of Russian Army border troops.
Needless to say, independent review is the only thing that gives the Endangered Species Act any actual value. Without it, it might as well not exist, and Kempthorne knows this perfectly well. Republicans have wanted to gut the Act forever, and since they’ve never gotten Congress to go along, this is their latest attempt.
The only good news here is that this is an executive order, and my guess is that it would have only the slimmest chance of surviving a court challenge. In the meantime, though, it’s the prefect way for George Bush to tell his corporate buddies, in the only language they truly understand, that he really does love them. Any guesses on whether John McCain will blow them a wet kiss too?
UPDATE: Interesting note from Halle in comments: “It’s not an executive order — it’s a rulemaking, meaning the new rules will be codified in the code of federal regulations. I’m sure enviro groups will challenge the new rules as arbitrary and capricious, and contrary to law, which will box up the new rules long enough for a new administration to take over, but still, harder to undo than an executive order.”