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Pallone Voices Opposition to Republican Committee Bill that Guts Endangered Species Act

Location: Unknown

September 21, 2005

U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), a senior member of the House Resources Committee and the ranking Democrat on the committee's Fisheries and Oceans Subcommittee, issued the following statement today at a hearing on legislation offered by Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo (R-CA). The legislation is scheduled to be marked-up and voted on by the full committee tomorrow and could come up for a vote on the House floor as early as next week. (A DETAILED SUMMARY OF THE LEGISLATION FOLLOWS PALLONE'S STATEMENT)

"I must say I have to seriously question the timing and appropriateness of considering a bill that would cut the heart out of one of our nation's major environmental protection laws in the wake of one of the worst human environmental tragedies in history.

"It has been little more than three weeks since Hurricane Katrina's landfall in the Gulf region resulted in perhaps the most devastating natural disaster our nation has ever seen.

"The environmental toll of this tragedy, especially in New Orleans and the Mississippi Delta region is no less serious. The flooding in New Orleans turned the city into a toxic and contaminated stew. The storm also caused multiple oil spills, devastated wildlife refuges, and resulted in heavy damage to wetlands. Katrina also wiped out virtually all of the fishing industry in the Gulf, which was already stressed by foreign competition and the reduction of critical wetland habitat.

"The hurricane raised all sorts of questions that this Committee should be considering carefully. What should we be doing to rebuild the fishing industry and help those who lost their jobs? How should we reexamine our coastal policies to mitigate the effects of future disasters like this one? How have sensitive fish and wildlife populations been affected?

"That is what the Committee should be considering in the wake of one of the worst environmental disasters in our nation's history, not a special-interest bill that guts a critical environmental safety net.

"I want us to be clear what exactly we are talking about here today. We're not talking about trying to improve the rate at which we recover endangered species.

"Instead, we're talking about a bill that is written to gut many of the critical protections in the Endangered Species Act for the benefit of developers and other special interest groups. I am especially concerned that this bill contains a provision that would effectively result in a massive giveaway of taxpayer dollars to corporate developers whose projects may be affected by the Endangered Species Act.

"Under this legislation, if the Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service determines that a developer's proposal would violate the Endangered Species Act and harm protected habitat, the Service would have to pay the developer for lost profits on any part of the proposed project that cannot be completed.

"This opens the door to incredible giveaways to developers coming straight out of taxpayers' pockets -- especially since the affected party would determine the value of lost profits. Moreover, it would devastate the budgets of the very agencies that we are relying on to protect and recover species.

"The developer giveaway provision is just one example of how this bill does effectively the opposite of what it is intended to do and devastates not only the letter but also the spirit of the Endangered Species Act.

"Supporters of this bill like to point out the relatively small number of endangered species that have been recovered to healthy populations since the passage of the Act. It is more appropriate, however, to note that 99 percent of the species listed since 1973 are still with us today -- a pretty good success rate.

"Mr. Chairman, in my district people are appalled to hear that Washington politicians are trying to give taxpayer money away to big developers at the expense of endangered species. I share their feelings, and I urge my colleagues not only to oppose this legislation but also to have the Committee examine the serious problems in the fishing industry and the environment in the Gulf region."

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