California Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown filed suit against the federal government Tuesday, charging that a recent rule change by the Bush administration illegally gutted provisions of the Endangered Species Act, essentially quashing the role of science in decisions made by federal agencies.
Ken Alex, senior assistant attorney general, said the state took the action because it has both the legal right and the moral responsibility to protect California's environment and resources. The new federal rules, he said, could put California's threatened and endangered wildlife in greater jeopardy and could ultimately cost the state more to protect plants and animals on California's Endangered Species List.
The federal rules, made final on Dec. 16, eliminated mandated independent scientific review of federal agency plans if the agency determined the projects pose no threat to protected species. Further, the new rules removed the requirement to consider the effects of greenhouse gases on protected species and their habitat.
Critics argued that agencies such as the Bureau of Land Management do not have sufficient scientific expertise to properly evaluate threats to wildlife. And, they said, the rules would make it more difficult to protect animals such as the polar bear, which was placed on the Endangered Species List because of the effects of climate change on the bear's melting habitat.