GOP chairmen: Obama’s climate rule would hurt manatees

GOP chairmen: Obama’s climate rule would hurt manatees
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Republican lawmakers are invoking the endangered Florida manatee in their latest attack on the Obama administration’s carbon emissions rule for power plants.

The top lawmakers overseeing endangered species policy said the warm water discharge of at least two coal-fired power plants in Florida is critical to the manatee, and the marine mammal would suffer if the plants are closed.

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The strategy, written by Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Rep. Rob BishopRobert (Rob) William BishopOvernight Energy: Judges remove remaining barrier to Keystone XL construction| House committee asks Interior to detail grants to wildlife organizations accused of abuse| Inspector general rules Park Service employee violated regs in complex art deal Overnight Energy: Judges remove remaining barrier to Keystone XL construction| House committee asks Interior to detail grants to wildlife organizations accused of abuse| Inspector general rules Park Service employee violated regs in complex art deal House committee asks Interior to detail grants to wildlife organizations accused of abuse MORE (R-Utah) in a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency Monday, seeks to pit two top environmental concerns, climate change and endangered species, against one another.

Both of the lawmakers, however, along with the vast majority of their GOP colleagues, have repeatedly railed against both the EPA’s power plant rule and the Endangered Species Act.

Under the regulation, coal plants are predicted to close at more than twice the pace as otherwise planned. The owner of the Big Bend Power Station near Tampa, which hosts a designated warm-water manatee refuge and manatee sanctuary, said it is likely to shutter.

Inhofe and Bishop say the EPA failed to consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) on the impact of its rule on imperiled animals, as it is obligated to do under the Endangered Species Act.

“A regulation that causes designated manatee refuges like Big Bend or Crystal River to shut down or alter their operations would significantly and adversely affect the endangered manatee,” wrote the lawmakers, who head the Senate Environment and Public Works, and the House Natural Resources committees, respectively.

The committees asked the EPA and the FWS in a letter and during a hearing about their coordination on the rule. While both agencies said they followed the law, it was clear that they did not formally communicate on the regulation’s endangered species impact.

Citing the Endangered Species Act, the lawmakers said, “Federal agencies must consult with the appropriate service when a discretionary agency action, including a rulemaking, ‘may affect’ a listed species or designated critical habitat.”

Federal courts have routinely overturned agency actions for ignoring that part of the law.

At the March House hearing, Dan Ashe, director of the Fish and Wildlife Service, seemed to lend some credibility to the Republicans’ concerns.