Monday Mission #48


Another Monday rolls around, 575 days into this mockery of an administration and now just 70 days from the midterm elections. It will not be easy to restore decency and honesty to our government, but we will succeed. The issues we’ll cover today speak volumes to the greed rampant in the executive branch and the complicity of the majority party in Congress which has abandoned its duty to provide oversight.

We’ll start with a proposal from the Department of Education to rescind the ‘gainful employment’ requirement for Title IV student assistance at vocational schools. The move will cost about 5 billion over 10 years because programs which are now failing the test would be eligible. The rule was put in place during the Obama administration to address the scandal of students racking up huge debt at for-profit institutions whose diplomas were not worth the paper they were printed on. (remember Trump University?) One in ten vocational programs last year failed the gainful employment standards and 98% of those were for-profits. The Secretary of Education is going to replace the requirement with something “even better’. Who does Betsy DeVos work for? Darned good question. You may comment here until September 13th.

In the second case, the Fish and Wildlife Service proposes to modify the language of regulations under the Endangered Species Act which determine when the agency would step in to halt development threatening an endangered plant or animal. What do the phrases ‘destruction or adverse modification’, ‘appreciably diminish’, ‘environmental baseline’, and ‘reasonable certainty’ mean to you?

I think I know. However, in reading pages of dense and defensive explanation, I found a clear intent to loosen these terms enough to drive a drilling rig through.

The Endangered Species Act should be strengthened by looking at entire ecosystems and requiring the restoration of fragile environments. The intent of the proposed modifications is not that. It is an attempt to parse language so that roadblocks to development can be more easily removed. Submit your comments here.

Finally, in a related filing, Fish and Wildlife would like to change the way it deals with threatened species. The practice has been to extend the protection given to endangered plants and animals to threatened ones as well. The service now says it has the expertise to design a special plan for each threatened species. According to the FWS, 387 species are currently listed as threatened. (1,274 are endangered). I want to believe this agency has the resources and the commitment to draw up a plan for each of these 214 animals and 173 plants. Sadly, I do not think that is the case. Funding has been cut and many fine scientists have left as the agency was politicized. You may give your opinion here .  Comments close on September 24th.

The Endangered Species Act has been remarkably successful. Over the last 40 years it has prevented the extinction of at least 227 species and is helping hundreds more recover. Imagine how impoverished our world will be if those who plan to gut the Act for profit have their way.

Speak up for these creatures, our fellow travelers on Earth, our brothers and sisters.

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