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21st Century Endangered Species Transparency Act

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. GEORGE MILLER of California. Mr. Chair, I thank the gentleman for yielding the time, and I thank him for his defense of the Endangered Species Act. And I thank him for how he administers his position as the ranking member of the Resources Committee.

This is an old argument. We have been around here time and again. Time and again, people who don't like the Endangered Species Act have tried to put their thumb on one side of the scale of justice whenever these arguments come forward. They have tried to empower junk science and give it the status of thoughtful, proven science to get in.

But now they are suggesting that the science would be based upon the party that submits it. If the right parties--if a local entity submits it, then it will be judged as the best science. Whether or not it is science at all won't matter. It will simply be deemed that by the Congress of the United States, and the Department will have to follow that.

That just, obviously, takes you right back to the courtroom, where they now inspire litigation. When the citizens want to sue, then the citizens will have to go back to the courtroom because they have deemed junk science as real science. And then they will try to limit the amount that the citizens can be compensated in terms of their lawyers.

And yet, as the gentleman from Oregon just pointed out, they are going to spend millions of dollars suing the President of the United States, and they are not going to pay for any of it. They are going to charge it to the deficit. They will charge it to the deficit. So how is this justice coming out of the House of Representatives?

The fact of the matter is, the Endangered Species Act has been effective. It has worked. It saves species. It has returned species off of the list. And the American people truly support it in great numbers. They truly support it in great numbers because they recognize that this is about one generation taking care of what we inherited and passing it on to another generation. People are most often pleased with the public spaces that have been preserved to protect it, to protect the various species.

Has every decision been exactly right? Of course not. And that is why people go to court on both sides of the law.

Nobody is suggesting that you limit it equally. This is a question of the science being used and who gets a leg up in that argument in the courts, which leads to more litigation. So the idea is that you are trying to get away from litigation.

But the fact of the matter is, the fact of the matter is that this is an act that has caused us to pause and wait and think about what we are doing, and what the impact of that is, whether that is development, whether that is forced practices, whether that is public infrastructure. Whatever it is, what is the impact beyond that project? And is that adverse and is it detrimental to these species? Is it detrimental to the health of the neighborhoods, to the health of the communities? And very often, the Endangered Species Act has resulted in better projects being designed, very often better projects being designed because of those considerations, more sustainable projects being designed because of those considerations.

But the fact of the matter is, many people just hate the Endangered Species Act. So we come here Congress after Congress with these meat-ax approaches.

I spent one of the longest negotiations on a bipartisan basis trying to arrive at a conclusion on a section of the Endangered Species Act. In the eleventh hour, my Republican partner, the chairman of the committee, walked out the door. I don't know why that happened. It wasn't communicated, but that was that. That morning, we were supposed to have a press conference to announce the agreement, but it never happened. With the hours and hours that were spent, I thought we had reached a good agreement between those areas.

But the idea of frustration builds up, and you can just swing away at the Endangered Species Act. Yes, it is very popular, and it can be very controversial.

I am more concerned about what local agencies do in the name of endangered species sometimes when they ask

for mitigation that I find is very unfair, that I have complained about, that I have written the agencies about.

I think very often, it is not so much the Federal protection of endangered species. Very often, it is people who then want to use it at another level of government to extract from developers, from land use, for the purposes of mitigation that I think is hard to justify.

And I would just hope that, once again, this Congress would use its good judgment, it would support the American people, it would support the Endangered Species Act, and it would, in fact, reject this legislation.

This is really bad legislation, and you can't pretend that you care about science and at the same time say you get to deem the best science based upon the party of submission.

I have fought with agencies to get the science that people have worked on, that universities have worked on, introduced into the discussion. I have never suggested that they would have to accept it as the best science. I thought it would broaden the discussion. I thought it would bring another consideration to those debates.

So this is a bill that should be rejected, and the gentleman from Oregon is quite right. I would have been so much happier spending our time here on the floor today dealing with the issue of wildfires, and not just those wildfires that are burning in California today, but by all projections, we are already ahead of the worst wildfire seasons this year already, and we expect it to get much worse with the persistence of this drought. And as the chairman and ranking member know, in those three States, we are way out ahead here on wildfires, and I wish at some point, we would make a decision that we could deal with these in an institutional fashion so that the firefighting assets would know what is available to them. We wouldn't scramble around. We wouldn't put other agencies in jeopardy by stealing money from their accounts. But we would deal with this in an adult fashion. We would set aside money for the purposes and replenishment of that money to fight wildfires because the alternative cannot be not to try to control this wildfire and stop the damage that they do both to the natural environment and to the private environment and the local economies that are so severely impacted by the aftermath of those fires.

But we are not going to do that. We are just going to stand up here and take another meat-ax approach to the Endangered Species Act, which is going to be unsuccessful, in the time we could have been talking about wildfires, in the time we could have prepared for the remainder of this wildfire season, giving notice to State agencies, to local agencies, to our Federal agencies on what they can do to prepare and the assets that they can have in place for those wildfires. We have missed that opportunity today in the name of this continued attack on the Endangered Species Act, which the American people have rejected over and over. And fortunately, this Congress has rejected over and over.

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