Oregon and a coalition of states went to court to block the eleventh-hour Bush Administration rule that sought to avoid public and Congressional scrutiny.
Attorney General John Kroger praised the Obama Administration for undoing a last-minute Bush Administration rule change that undermined the Endangered Species Act.
"This response to our multi-state lawsuit is an important step in the right direction on environmental protection," Attorney General Kroger said.
The decision by Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar marks a successful end to a lawsuit brought by Oregon and a coalition of states on Jan. 16 to block the Bush Administration regulation. Under the change, federal agencies must once again consult with wildlife experts at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration before taking any action that may harm threatened or endangered species.
For years, efforts to roll back endangered species protections have failed in Congress for lack of support. On December 16, 2008, the Bush Administration announced substantial changes to the ESA through rule-making - a last-minute maneuver that left little time for public or congressional input.
The Bush regulations significantly altered the manner in which the ESA protects endangered species.
One Bush Administration change created an exception for all climate change effects. This exception would have meant that actions that lead to climate change and global warming could not be regulated by the ESA. In other words, if global warming was melting the polar ice caps, which in turn was ruining the polar bear habitat and threatening the existence of polar bears, the ESA would not apply.
The ESA itself will not allow for such exceptions, and the lawsuit by Oregon and the other states contended that the Bush Administration could not create exemptions not identified in statute.
Another significant amendment would have undermined the "cautionary principle," which is derived from the ESA's requirement to "insure" that actions do not jeopardize protected species. That principle requires that the federal government err on the side of protecting endangered species when human actions affect protected species. The new amendments reversed that principle, requiring that agencies ignore effects on species until they are proven to be harmful. Oregon asserted that the new rule was illegal.
Oregon and several other states joined a lawsuit filed by California challenging the new regulation. That lawsuit is effectively resolved by today's corrective action by the Obama Administration.
Attorney General John Kroger leads the Oregon Department of Justice. The Department's mission is to fight crime and fraud, protect the environment, improve child welfare, and defend the rights of all Oregonians.
Tony Green, (503) 378-6002 firstname.lastname@example.org