A Bush administration proposal to streamline the Endangered Species Act has met with stiff opposition from California environmentalists and state Attorney General Jerry Brown. A November letter signed by Senior Assistant Attorney General Ken Alex and Deputy Attorney General Tara Mueller to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service accuses the agency of "flouting the public review process" as it rushes toward "a decision apparently already reached."

In August, the Department of the Interior published a proposed regulation for implementing Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The rule would prevent greenhouse gas emissions from being considered an impact on species and their habitats. It also would eliminate the requirement that the Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service independently review the impact of federally approved mining, logging and power plant projects on protected species. Instead, the agencies approving the projects would study the species impacts.

Interior received roughly 300,000 comments on the proposed regulatory changes but reportedly took only four days to review comments before concluding the changes would not necessitate an environmental impact statement. One of the comment letters came from the California attorney general, who apparently felt ignored.

"Despite the department's contentions and protestations that the proposed regulations are modest in breadth, scope and impact, in fact they could have profound impact on the species and habitat that the ESA is designed to protect," states the latter from Alex and Mueller. They argue the federal government must complete an environmental impact statement before adopting the regulations.

Read the press release and the entire letter on the AG's office website