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Tuesday, 29 August 2006 06:56

Federal Judge Finds Bush Admin Broke Law by Ignoring Scientists and Allowing Pesticides that Harm Endangered Species

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Last week, a federal district judge struck down rules created by the Bush Administration intended to make it easier for pesticides found harmful to endangered species to reach the market. The defeated policies had allowed political appointees and bureaucrats in the federal government to make unilateral decisions that ignored or contradicted research conducted by their own scientists. (click here to read the decision - pdf)

Existing laws and regulations require formal consultations for decisions "likely to adversely affect" endangered species and informal consultations for "decisions not likely to adversely affect" them, but the Administration's policy allowed officials to handle the latter cases without any oversight. "Although it may be true that 'Congress left it to the informed discretion of the Services to define the process of consultation,'" Judge John Coughenour wrote, "Congress did not leave it to the discretion of the Services to define consultation in a way that results in no consultation at all."

Worse, Coughenour wrote that the government's policies "would actually result in harm to" endangered species and that they completely ignored existing research from EPA and Fish and Wildlife Service scientists without using any real information of their own: "[T]he record does not reflect that the Services' approval, which ran counter to its scientists' consensus, was based on any science-based reason (i.e., differences in scientific opinion). Indeed . . . they were aware that the foregoing problems with the scope of EPA's inquiry had played a part in the registration of two chemicals known to have highly toxic effects."

In other words, they just didn't care about the facts.

More than two dozen members of Congress had urged the Administration not to implement the now illegal policies. "The proposed changed would unnecessarily risk both wildlife and public health by exposing animals and humans to highly toxic pesticides when they are most potent and would eliminate necessary interagency checks and balances," they wrote. (click here to read the letter - pdf)

This is not the first time Judge Coughenour, a Reagan appointee, has been critical of the Bush Administration. Last year he argued that it was in fact possible to try suspected terrorists "in the sunlight of a public trial" when he sentenced Ahmed Ressam to prison for more than two decades for plotting to bomb Los Angeles International Airport on the millennium's eve. He remarked that justice had been served despite having "no secret proceedings, no indefinite detention, [and] no denial of counsel."

"The tragedy of Sept. 11 shook our sense of security and made us realize that we, too, are vulnerable to acts of terrorism. Unfortunately, some believe that this threat renders our Constitution obsolete. ... If that view is allowed to prevail, the terrorists will have won."