By Hook or Crook: George Bush may be a lame duck president, but his administration is still capable of mischief. Case in point: proposed changes in regulations to implement the Endangered Species Act.
The regulations would achieve through the rule-making process what the administration has been unable to do through legislation. Instead of agency actions affecting protected species having to be approved by NOAA or FWS, each agency could instead make its own determination of impact and required mitigation measures, if any.
And the standards for determining impact are narrowed. Effects that are “reasonably certain to occur” if an agency undertakes a given action must now be supported by “clear and substantial information” that the effect will happen. “Our intention is to make it clear that the effect cannot just be speculative and that it must be more than just likely to occur,” the Department of Interior states in describing the proposed changes.
The implications for administering the ESA are huge. To take one example, plaintiffs suing the Navy over its use of mid-range frequency sonar would be prevented from claiming harm to beaked whales, since it is impossible to say with certainty that a beaked whale will be harmed by such sonar. And the Navy would not even have to win the concurrence of NMFS to conduct sonar operations – although, to be sure, NMFS’ concurrence comes pretty cheaply these days.
The regulations also would rule out consideration of effects that agency actions might have on climate change and the secondary impacts climate change may have on listed species (think polar bears).
The deadline for commenting on the rule change is September 15. More information on where to address comments is available on our webpage: [url=http://www.environment-hawaii.org]www.environment-hawaii.org[/url] The rules are available in the Federal Register online at: [url=http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2008/pdf/E8-18938.pdf]http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2008/pdf/E8-18938.pdf[/url]
Waiawi Control Update: A resolution that would have put the Hawai`i County Council on record as opposing the release of a scale insect intended to slow the growth of strawberry guava has been tabled for the time being. On August 12, the council’s Public Works and Intergovernmental Relations Committee took testimony on the measure, which was introduced by Councilmember Brenda Ford. (The actual author of the measure appears to have been Sydney Ross Singer, the executive director of the non-profit Good Shepherd Foundation who has used the foundation to oppose control of coqui as well as strawberry guava).
After five hours of testimony that was pretty evenly split among those supporting release of the insect as perhaps the last and best hope of saving native forests from the invader and those fearing that the insect would destroy their source of strawberry jam and handy walking sticks, the committee decided to hold off further action until sometime in October, following a public meeting in Hilo.
The resolution would not have any force of law. Instead, it would put the council on record as discouraging the introduction of the insect, Tectococcus ovatus, anywhere on the Island of Hawai`i, would ask that the minutes of the County Council and its committees deliberating on the resolution be included in the environmental assessment on the release, now being prepared.
Give Aloha: The annual charitable campaign of Foodland will be in full swing throughout the month of September. It provides you with a terrific opportunity to leverage your support of Environment Hawai`i. For each dollar donated, Foodland will provide a match based on the percent of total donations we receive.
It’s easy to donate: just remember to give the check-out cashier the number of our organization, 77036, along with your payment. Foodland will give you the receipt you need for tax purposes.
If you would like to have your donation acknowledged in a future issue, please send us a copy of your receipt. That’s the only way we have to link you to your gift.
Volume 19, Number 3 September 2008