Democratic Spending Bill Reverses Infamous Bush Rule on Endangered Species

The $410 billion government spending bill that’s poised to pass the House of Representatives today contains a lot of good new science and sex-ed policies — but that’s not its only hidden gem.

The bill also authorizes a reversal of last year’s controversial Bush end run around the Endangered Species Act, which would allow oil rigs and highways to be built anywhere in the U.S. without independent reviews of their potential impact on the surrounding wildlife populations. As Bloomberg reports:

The provision authorizes President Barack Obama to reverse a Bush administration rule that said energy projects outside the habitat of polar bears couldn’t be blocked solely because emissions might add to global warming and destruction of the arctic species.

The provision could also expand the consultations required before changes are made to endangered-species listings. A rule issued under President George W. Bush limited the number of agencies that had to weigh in on decisions about endangered animals.

This authorization should be a welcome development for the environmental community — provided that the Senate version of the spending bill keeps it intact. (It almost makes up for the Democrats’ decision to kick the can down the road on the Medicaid family-planning aid that was cut from the stimulus last month … the spending bill wasn’t the most likely vehicle for restoring that aid, but it could’ve happened.)