The Environment

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  Obama Orders EPA to Reconsider Ban on State Emissions StandardsJanuary 26, 2009 09:54 U.S. President Barack Obama began reversing the climate policies of the Bush administration on Monday, clearing the way for the government to allow states to set stricter limits on greenhouse gas emissions from cars.

The president told the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to reconsider California's request, denied under President George W. Bush, that would allow it to impose stricter limits on vehicle carbon dioxide emissions, blamed for contributing to global warming.

As many as 18 other states have indicated they may follow California's lead, putting tailpipe emissions standards that are tougher than federal requirements into effect.

"The federal government must work with, not against, states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions," Obama said at the White House, taking a stab at his predecessor's policies.

"California has shown bold and bipartisan leadership through its effort to 21st century standards. And over a dozen states have followed its lead."

The president also directed the Department of Transportation to move forward with setting vehicle fuel efficiency standards for 2011 by March, giving automakers an 18 month period to impose them.

  Loggerhead Sea Turtle Deaths Prompt Lawsuit ThreatJanuary 24, 2009 19:44 A coalition of conservation groups has notified the National Marine Fisheries Service of its intent to file a lawsuit as early as March if the agency does not act immediately to protect imperiled sea turtles in the Gulf of Mexico.
The action comes after fisheries observer data showed that the Gulf of Mexico bottom longline fishery, which harvests reef fish like grouper and tilefish, resulted in the capture of nearly 1,000 threatened and endangered sea turtles between July 2006 and the end of 2007.

The coalition urges that the commercial bottom longline fishery be suspended until the federal agency meets its legal obligations under the Endangered Species Act to ensure that the fishery does not imperil sea turtles and other threatened species in the Gulf of Mexico.

All six species of sea turtles occurring in the United States are protected under the Endangered Species Act.
  The Associated Press: House Democrats Move To Overturn Bush Species RuleJanuary 15, 2009 15:18 A group of Democratic lawmakers on Thursday moved to overturn a last-minute rule by the Bush administration intended to reduce input from government scientists when evaluating whether dams, power plants or other projects might harm endangered species.
The 13 House members introduced a resolution that, if passed by both houses of Congress and signed by incoming President Barack Obama, will block the rule from taking effect. The action uses a 1996 law that allows Congress to review new regulations. It has been used once in the past 12 years.
In December, the Bush administration finalized changes to endangered species regulations to allow federal agencies, without consulting government experts, to decide whether wildlife or plants are likely to be harmed by power plants, dams and other projects.
For the past 35 years, regulations have required government biologists to be consulted in all cases — even when a project is unlikely to harm threatened wildlife or the places they live.
  Wolf Removed From Endangered Species ListJanuary 15, 2009 15:15 For the second time in less than a year the federal government will try to remove gray wolves from the endangered species list in most states.

Federal officials say Wyoming is not included because the state has not done enough to assure the animal's survival. Wildlife and conservation groups were quick to disagree with the decision saying the wolf population has not sufficiently recovered and that delisting poses too great a threat.
  Despite Request For Delay, Gas Pipeline Vote To Forge AheadJanuary 13, 2009 08:09 The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said yesterday that it plans to vote this week on a proposal to build a natural gas terminal in Sparrows Point and an 88-mile pipeline to Pennsylvania, despite a request to delay action until concerns about an endangered bat and a threatened turtle can be addressed.

"The case is still scheduled for consideration Thursday," said Tamara Young Allen, a commission spokeswoman. "The commission could address the issues brought by the wildlife service and could approve [the project] but require other mitigating measures from the applicant."

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said the project, if undertaken by Virginia-based AES Corp., could adversely affect habitats along the proposed pipeline route used by the bog turtle, which is on the federal threatened-species list, and the Indiana bat, which is on the federal endangered-species list.

In a letter to the FERC last week, Willie Taylor, director of the office of environmental policy for the wildlife service, a bureau of the U.S. Department of the Interior, asked the commission to "withhold certification" of the project until the habitat issues are resolved.