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The Trump administration announced new federal rules yesterday that would gut the Endangered Species Act and allow more development, logging, drilling, and mining in areas where vulnerable wildlife may be affected. Whatever Trump's fate may be in the 2020 elections, he has at least brought to fruition one of Republicans' wettest decade-long dreams. The shuddering orgasms from lobbyists' offices could be heard across the nation, and will soon be followed by the dying gasps and gurgles of millions of birds, mammals, and fish, not to mention plant species, though they tend to at least expire silently. Stupid natural world should have hired better PR firms if it wanted to be taken seriously. Show us a big fat check from Mother Earth to the Trump Inaugural Committee and maybe we'll talk.

The new rules, first proposed last July by now-quitfired Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, will go into effect next month, assuming they aren't sued into oblivion. Thanks for loading up the courts with pro-Trump judges, Mr. McConnell! Guess eliminating a bunch of turtle species will be a fitting revenge for all the mean jokes!


Among other changes, the new rules will:

  • make it easier to remove endangered species' protections
  • weaken protections for "threatened" species (the level just below "endangered")
  • allow regulators to assess the economic costs of listing a species
  • make it far more difficult to consider climate change in deciding whether to protect species.
David Bernhardt, the former oil and gas lobbyist who replaced Zinke at Interior, offered the expected bafflegab about what a great step forward in good governing the rules represent, insisting the changes would "modernize" the Endangered Species Act and make it more "transparent." In a statement, he said, "The act's effectiveness rests on clear, consistent and efficient implementation."
As a side note, we also have to admire the beautiful passive aggressiveness in how the New York Times injected a little newspaper warring to its reporting:
Republicans have long sought to narrow the scope of the law, saying that it burdens landowners, hampers industry and hinders economic growth. Mr. Bernhardt, a former oil and gas lobbyist, wrote in an op-ed last summer that the act places an "unnecessary regulatory burden" on companies.

That linky goes to the Washington Post, shame on them. Heavens, the Times would never let itself serve as an administration mouthpiece, except when Maggie Haberman has an exclusive.

Republicans have been gunning for the Endangered Species Act (ESA) ever since it was passed during the Nixon administration, but they've never managed to kill it off in Congress. And even though the new regulations will fuck over plenty of critters and plants that will see their habitats opened to development and exploitation, it's still not enough for many Republicans, who know that prosperity can only come when the last carcass of the last owl is stuffed and put on display at a natural history museum -- whose budget can then be slashed.

Here's Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, the living embodiment of why the Senate and Electoral College should be abolished, explaining why the ESA needs to be stomped on and paved over even more.

These final rules are a good start, but the administration is limited by an existing law that needs to be updated [...] We must modernize the Endangered Species Act in a way that empowers states, promotes the recovery of species, and allows local economies to thrive.

For instance, we bet they're still pretty mad about the bit that allows economic analysis of listing decisions. In its current form, determinations of endangered or threatened status have to be made only based on science, "without reference to possible economic or other impacts of determination." A Trump administration mouthhole explained that very necessary change to the Times, pointing out it was nothing to worry about, and certainly not a gift to extractive industries heavens no:

Gary Frazer, the assistant director for endangered species with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, said that phrase had been removed for reasons of "transparency." He said the change leaves open the possibility of conducting economic analyses for informational purposes, but that decisions about listing species would still be based exclusively on science.

See? They'll just do the analysis for the sake of "information" and then completely ignore it when they make decisions, THEY PROMISE.

Then there's this fun change: The rules make considerations of climate change harder by allowing broader interpretation of the term "foreseeable future" -- by people who are pretty sure that since Miami streets are still mostly visible when the tide's out, there's nothing to worry about:

That's a semantic change with far-reaching implications, because it enables regulators to disregard the effects of extreme heat, drought, rising sea levels and other consequences of climate change that may occur several decades from now.

When questioned about that change and its implications in the era of climate change, Mr. Frazer said the agency wanted to avoid making "speculative" decisions far into the future.

Mr. Frazer, surprisingly, appears to be a career ecological guy in government service, so we can only assume he's hoping for the best and trying to hold back the worst. Or was the subject of a hostage video.

The policy he's trying to make palatable is a monumental fuck-you to the environment, and thankfully, the lawsuits will be flying as soon as possible. New Mexico Sen. Tom Udall, the top Dem on the committee that oversees Interior, wants to block the changes using the Congressional Review Act, the 1996 law that Trump and the Republicans have previously used to roll back Obama-era environmental rules, so there's a certain symmetry there.

Vote like your children's and grandchildren's lives depend on it because they do.

[NYT / NPR]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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