The Center for Biological Diversity Report Card Gives Obama Administration a “C”
Obama weak on Endangered Species, Climate, Energy, Public Lands and Oceans During First Year
The news reports over the last year were a real tip-off, but now we have verification that the new administration, while marginally better than Bush in handling sensitive and urgent environmental issues, has a long, long way to go.
According to a recent press release, The Center for Biological Diversity yesterday gave the Obama administration a grade of “C” for its handling of endangered species, climate, energy, public lands, and oceans during its first year in office. While the Obama administration has not shown the ideological opposition to environmental protection of the previous administration and has taken a number of positive steps, it has fallen far short of delivering the promised change in overall environmental policies.
The CBD cites, among the positives, issuing a finding under the Clean Air Act that greenhouse gases endanger public health and welfare and reinstating protection for millions of acres of roadless lands, while negatives include reducing protections for wolves and other endangered species and pursuing offshore oil development in polar bear habitat off Alaska.
“The Obama administration has begun to steer the ship in the right direction,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species program director for the Center for Biological Diversity. That, however, seems to be the extent of Obama’s positive impact. “But it has failed to provide the strong leadership to get us on the course we need to be following to address the pressing problems of species extinction and global warming.”
On endangered species, the Center gave the administration a solid C, since for every positive action there seemed to be a negative action of equal scope. For example, the Obama administration rescinded regulations passed in the final days of the Bush administration that would have gutted enforcement of key provisions of the Endangered Species Act, but retained a rule weakening protection for the polar bear. The Obama administration also moved forward with a Bush initiative to remove protections for the gray wolf, and has only listed two new species as endangered, which is the fewest protected in the first year of any administration since Reagan.
“The Obama administration has not prioritized protection of the nation’s endangered species, meriting their grade of a C,” said Greenwald. “After the dark days of the Bush administration, wholesale reform of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s endangered species program was needed and this has simply not occurred.”
*A very alarming development is the Administration’s reversal on sea-turtle protection, inexplicably increasing the number of endangered sea turtles that can be caught and killed by industrial longline fisheries near Hawaii.
On climate and energy, the Center gave the administration a C-. The administration has taken some very important positive steps, including issuing a seminal finding under the Clean Air Act that greenhouse gases endanger public health and welfare, which sets the stage for greenhouse reductions under several of the Clean Air Act’s successful pollution reduction programs. The administration also included in its stimulus bill millions of dollars of tax credits and subsidies for improving energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.
However, continues the report, the administration failed to advance the greenhouse emissions reduction targets that scientists believe are necessary to avoid the worst impacts of global warming either in the legislation being considered by Congress or at the international climate talks in Copenhagen last December. The administration has also continued to grant permits and leases for fossil fuel exploration and extraction, including mountaintop removal in Appalachia, offshore oil drilling off Alaska, and the expansion of coal mining in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming.
“We need bold, swift action to avert the climate crisis,” said Greenwald. “To date, the Obama administration has not delivered the leadership we need.”
The administration has done somewhat better on management of the nation’s public lands, where it received a B+ based on reinstatement of a Clinton-era rule protecting millions of acres of roadless lands and the withdrawal of the Bush-era Western Oregon Plan Revision, which would have allowed logging of tens of thousands of acres of old-growth forests in the Pacific Northwest. At the same time, the administration allowed the logging of roadless areas in Alaska to proceed.
On oceans, the administration received a B- based on its acknowledgment that ocean acidification is a serious threat and its initiation of a process for determining how to address the problem. However, in a ‘one step forward, two-steps back’ maneuver, the administration has also allowed oil drilling off Alaska, not to mention the weakened protection for endangered sea turtles.
“The administration has taken positive steps to address a number of severe environmental problems,” said Greenwald. “We hope in the next few years, however, that the administration will lead us towards the real change for which the American public voted.”
The report concludes the Obama administration’s first year report card for endangered species, climate, energy, public lands, and oceans—gets a combined grade of a C.
To let the Obama administration know you want stronger laws to protect the planet, click here.
For more information contact: The Center for Biological Diversity
Below is a list from the CBD spreadsheet on the Obama record:
Endangered Species :
Rescinded Bush administration rules weakening protection for endangered species
Enacted or is in the process of enacting increased critical habitat protections for a number of species, including Canada lynx, leatherback sea turtle, bull trout, and others
Only protected two new species as endangered—the lowest first year number of any administration since Reagan
Removed protections for the gray wolf
Retained rules weakening protection for polar bear
Retained bad Bush administration policies on management of Snake River salmon
Issued a seminal finding under the Clean Air Act that greenhouse gases endanger public health and welfare
Proposed new fuel economy standards that for the first time regulate greenhouse gases at the tailpipe, but the standards are still far below what is necessary to address global warming and what many other countries achieve today
Failed to push Congress to enact legislation that has scientifically defensible emission targets and that retains the Clean Air Act’s critical safety net for reducing greenhouse gases
Proposed greenhouse gas emission targets at Copenhagen far below levels scientists say are necessary to avoid the worst impacts of global warming
Included tax credits and federal funding for energy efficiency and renewable energy in the stimulus bill
Withdrew oil and gas leases near Arches National Park
Announced oil and gas leasing reform
Authorized permits for mountain top removal
Offered new coal mining leases on public lands, such as the Powder River Basin
Approved Shell’s off-shore oil exploration plans in polar bear habitat off Alaska
Reinstatement of rule protecting millions of acres of roadless areas
Withdrew the Western Oregon Plan Revision (“WOPR”) allowing logging of old-growth forests in Oregon and northern California.
Proposed withdrawal of one million acres of land around the Grand Canyon from Uranium mining, but at least one old mine still moving forward
Abandoned weak Bush administration regulations governing management of national forests and in process of developing new rules
Authorized logging in roadless areas in Alaska
Continues to issue oil and gas and coal mining leases on sensitive public lands in the western U.S. and Alaska
Took first steps towards addressing ocean acidification under Clean Water Act
Convened high level ocean policy task force to promote ocean protection
Allowed off-shore oil drilling off Alaska
Reduced protections for endangered sea turtles from long-line fishing near Hawaii