Federal Wildlife Agencies Ordered to Ignore Global Warming

Federal Wildlife Agencies Ordered to Ignore Global Warming

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October 14, 2008  10:24 AM

CONTACT: Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER)
Bill Boteler (202) 265-7337

Federal Wildlife Agencies Ordered to Ignore Global Warming
No Review of New Greenhouse Gas Pollution for Impact on Species or Habitat

WASHINGTON – October 14 – Top Bush administration officials have forbidden wildlife
agencies from analyzing the effects of greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired
power-plants or any other project on species and habitat, according to documents
released today by Public Employees for
Environmental Responsibility (PEER). These directives are designed to block the
Endangered Species Act (ESA) from being used as a legal tool for addressing global

In a recent series of memos, the Interior Department, National Oceanic & Atmospheric
Administration (NOAA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have ruled that
since no single source of greenhouse gases will by itself cause detectable climate
change, therefore there can be no official review of possible effects on wildlife or
their habitats.

In an October 3, 2008 memo to Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, Interior
Solicitor David Berhardt concluded that there are no “indirect effects” on wildlife
that can be isolated to specific greenhouse gas sources.
Moreover, “cumulative effects” Berhardt opined “are of no relevance in determining
whether a proposed action ‘may affect listed species or critical habitat.'”

Similarly, in an October 10, 2008 letter, James Lecky, Director of NOAA’s Office of
Protected Species, wrote that impacts on coral and other marine species as well as
effects on ocean temperatures and acidity cannot be traced to any one source of
greenhouse gas and therefore, no consultation under ESA is required before
proceeding. While conceding the question was “an important issue of first impression
that is of national significance,” Lecky, nonetheless, reached his conclusion in one
week following a request from EPA and without consulting agency scientists. In 2002,
Lecky was the official whose actions led to a massive fish kill on the Klamath
River, and afterwards he was promoted to his current position.

“Despite findings by their own scientists that our atmosphere is reaching the
tipping point, these Bush appointees cling to circular legalisms to justify
continued inaction,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. “The Bush position is
that the death by a thousand cuts must be endured because we cannot know how many
cuts we can survive.”

Since the Bush administration was forced this spring to list polar bears as a
threatened species under the ESA due to melting sea ice habitat caused by global
warming, there has been a concerted effort both within and outside the White House
to minimize application of this powerful law against specific projects that
aggravate the effects of climate change. This posture is forcing wildlife agency
officials to deliver distinctly mixed messages. On May 14, 2008, U.S. Fish &
Wildlife Service Director Dale Hall ordered his staff to avoid ESA consultations
solely on the basis of greenhouse gas pollution. Meanwhile, on his agency website
Hall has posted this statement:

“The warming of the earth, however, could potentially have more
far-reaching impacts on wildlife and wildlife habitat than any challenge that has
come before us.”

“In listing polar bears, the Interior Department admitted that greenhouse
gas-induced global warming is having undeniable effects on wildlife, yet now it is
saying it cannot justify any ameliorative actions,” Ruch added. “We have already
reached the point where any further addition of
greenhouses gases will have indirect effects on wildlife, and humans, all over the


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