Republicans Bring Extinct Talking Points Back from the Dead in Zombie ESA Hearing

Washington, D.C. – In their latest attempt to manufacture opposition to popular and effective environmental laws, House Republicans are holding a hearing at 10 a.m. today to attack the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and wrongfully blame the Act for delaying development and infrastructure projects. Republican witnesses are expected to resurrect claims that were debunked long ago, such as the myth that ESA consultation caused the catastrophic levee failure along California’s Feather River in 1997, and employ a similar ruse to falsely implicate the ESA for the recent Oroville Dam crisis. House Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Ranking Member A. Donald McEachin (D-Va.) will stick to the facts and remind Committee Republicans that since its passage 99 percent of species listed under the ESA have survived and 90 percent of listed species are recovering at a rate equal to or faster than that specified in their recovery plans. Despite the scientific fact that the Act works, Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) was recently quoted by The Washington Post saying that the ESA “has never been used for the rehabilitation of species.”

“If the rest of creation was as resilient as the alternative facts Chairman Bishop and his extinction-hungry allies use to undermine the ESA, we wouldn’t need the law in the first place,” Grijalva said. “Science shows that the ESA is both necessary and effective, period. This shouldn’t even be an issue we’re wasting our time debating. If Republicans are serious about improving our infrastructure and growing our economy, they should get behind our bill to invest in those things. If not, they should stop parading corporate bad actors and Koch Industries lackeys up to the Hill for disingenuous hearings, and instead just show us their bill to gut the ESA already.”

"Once again, partisan ideology instead of facts rule the day,” McEachin said. “My colleagues on the other side of the aisle would rather undermine the Endangered Species Act, which is clearly working, instead of answering the call for a hearing that Ranking Member Grijalva and I sent to the chairman months ago on the Trump administration’s attempt to censor the truth about climate change. The ESA works to protect our wildlife for future generations. Now the Republicans want to hold a hearing falsely claiming that the ESA hampers business and development without acknowledging the incredible conservation successes of the legislation. Just like we saw over the last few weeks with the ACA, they would rather repeal than consider supporting something that works and being open to improvements. I hope that today we can all focus on actual data and facts to make legitimate assessments."

Republican witnesses include a mining company that paid more than a quarter of a billion dollars to settle claims of massive environmental damage brought by Native Americans, and the Pacific Legal Foundation, a group underwritten by the same right-wing foundations that bankroll climate denial conspiracy theorists. Democratic witness Ya-Wei (Jake) Li from Defenders of Wildlife will highlight a study showing that the vast majority of ESA Section 7 consultations take only a few days to complete and impose little if any cost or delay on project applicants. 

Pressure from House Republicans to weaken the ESA and to remove ESA protections from individual species has increased in recent years. Since the beginning of the 112th Congress, there have been more than 100 legislative attacks on endangered species introduced by House Republicans. Similarly, the Natural Resources Committee has held 16 hearings aimed at undermining the Act, and reported several bills that would make endangered wildlife more vulnerable to poachers, limit citizens’ rights to hold the government accountable for failing to follow the law, and base ESA decisions on politics instead of sound science. In the 114th Congress, Republicans introduced dozens of bills and policy riders targeting the ESA and species like the gray wolf, greater sage-grouse, Chinook salmon, and Delta smelt. Chairman Bishop recently stated during a Rules Committee hearing that he “would be happy to invalidate the Endangered Species Act.” The Majority’s stated desire to “improve” the ESA is in direct contrast with their actions, and ignores the fact that recent polling shows 90 percent of Americans support the ESA and 70 percent are opposed to eliminating protections for at-risk species.   

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