Clearing the way for his former oil and gas-drilling clients to ransack thousands of miles of critical habitat as oil prices spike to record levels, Trump Admiration Interior Secretary David Bernhardt is gutting The Endangered Species Act by manipulating the data scientists use to decide how many species are listed as threatened or endangered.
The critical changes Bernhardt announced won’t alter the status of currently endangered species, such as the grizzly bears, according to The Wall Street Journal’s Timothy Puko.
“However, they will put new restrictions how future assessments are made by factoring out data that’s considered vitally important, such as how much the risks of climate change can be considered,” he writes.
The rule could annihilate as many as 1,600 plants and animals (including fish) and their habitats, crucial to humankind as people need them.
Economics Trumps Species Sustainability
For the first time the government will be permitted to assess the economic costs of listing new species as “threatened” or “endangered”, a practice that has been strictly forbidden.
Currently, decisions on whether species will thrive or perish must be made solely based on science, “without reference to possible economic or other impacts of determination”, the law states.
Under Bernhardt’s rule, “the government would be allowed to consider lost revenue from a prohibition on logging in a critical habitat when deciding whether a species warrants protection, “The New York Times’ Lisa Friedman reports.
“There can be economic costs to protecting endangered species, Drew Caputo, vice president of litigation for lands, wildlife and oceans at Earthjustice, an environmental law organization,” tells Friedman.
“But if we make decisions based on short-term economic costs, we’re going to have a whole lot more extinct species.”
Species’ Future Not Considered
Further bastardizing the data needed to determine whether more than 1 million endangered species–including fish and wildlife– thrive or perish, future catastrophic climate changes that might not occur for several decades, such as severe drought, extreme heat and rising sea levels, won’t be considered, as Bernhardt says he doesn’t want to “speculate about the future.”
“Among the animals at risk from this change are polar bears and seals that are losing crucial sea ice; whooping cranes whose migration patterns are shifting because of temperature changes and beluga whales that will have to dive deeper and longer to find food in a warmer climate,” Friedman notes.
Bernhardt’s harsh new rules would also disregard regions where endangered species have been wiped out and need room to expand and recover.
They would also make it easier to weaken protections for “threatened” species, the classification one notch below the “endangered” list.
For example, last March, Bernhardt finalized plans to strip the greater sage grouse’s “threatened species” protective status by opening Federal land in 10-oil rich states along the sagebrush sea, including: Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada and Utah, as oil prices spike and developers profit handsomely.
The fossil fuel industry cheered the long-awaited victory Bernhardt handed them.
Their lobbying efforts to dismantle the act have failed to muster enough votes in the House or even in the Republican-controlled Senate, so had to be implemented by administrative regulation.
“The act’s effectiveness rests on clear, consistent and efficient implementation,” Bernhardt said in a statement that is reminiscent of the double-speak George Orwell wrote about in his novel, “1984.”
The Endangered Species Act was passed with wide bipartisan support by a Republican, President Richard Nixon three years after the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970, marking the genesis of the last five decades of environmental protection measures.
Under Investigation for Ethics Violations
“Bernhardt had a long list of potential conflicts of interest and is one of several top Interior officials being investigated for alleged violations of ethics rules dealing with former employers,” the Huff Post’s Chris D’Angelo reports.
“At a Congressional Budget hearing in early May, Representative Mike Quigley (D-Ill), accused Bernhard of “rolling back endangered species protections to benefit your former clients,” D’Angelo writes.
Xavier and Healy: We’ll See You in Court
Donald Trump nemesis, California Attorney General, Xavier Becerra, who has sued the Trump Administration 50 times as of May, and Massachusetts’ Attorney General Maura Healy say they’ll see Bernhardt in court.
“I know that gutting the Endangered Species Act sounds like plan from a cartoon villain, not the work of the president of the United States, “Healey said during a call with reporters.
“But unfortunately that’s what we’re dealing with today.”
Tom Udall, top Democrat on the budget committee overseeing Interior, said Democrats are considering invoking the Congressional Review Act, a 1996 law that gives Congress broad authority to invalidate rules established by federal agencies, to block the changes, The Times’ Friedman reports.
Bernhardt and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross signed the new regulations on Monday.
They will go into effect 30 days after they are published in the federal register, likely within the next two weeks, an Interior spokeswoman said.