Wednesday, October 22, 2008

All in due haste

Somebody has lit a fire under these guys to get this done in due haste.

—Jamie Rappaport Clark, executive director of Defenders of Wildlife, former director of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

In what appears to be a parting shot at any semblance of meaningful environmental protection, the Bush Administration is attempting to fast-track (really fast-track) the review of public comments on proposed changes to endangered-species rules.

The changes? Well, when considering the potential effects of federally-reviewed projects such as dams, power plants, etc. on endangered species, concerns about greenhouse gases would be dismissed a priori—and, if that's not incredible enough, the advice of federal biologists at the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service would not be sought. Whiskey...Tango...Foxtrot.

Now, it's reasonable to assume that a significant portion of the public commentary might be in opposition. Is that a problem for the administration? Not at all. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service proposes to bring in a team of 15 experts (speed-reading experts, apparently) to review all 200,000 or so comments in a 32-hour session. Do the math: 200,000 comments, divided by the 32 hours devoted to the task, divided by 60 minutes per hour, divided by 15 team members sharing the workload. Each of the 15 experts will need to read almost 7 comments per minute. That works out to not quite nine seconds per letter—and I don't mean letter as in character, but letter as in note, missive, epistle, some of which may be several pages long.

This is beyond cynical, even for the Bush White House. Apparently one or more of the Interior Department's many lawyers pointed out that Interior was required by law to read the comments—and so the administration will adhere to the letter of the law while flagrantly trampling on its spirit. Why bother actually discussing or thinking about public opinion (or, indeed, the public welfare) when you've already made up your mind to disregard it?

Read the AP article here if you are even slightly disinclined to believe any of this. An attempt to ignore global warming, by rule, and bypass or ignore biologists on endangered-species issues—and then to gloss over public outcry—does sound like parody from The Onion, but that's really what has been proposed.

Utterly disgraceful.

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