The Biden administration is working to reverse 5 Trump-era rollbacks on protecting endangered species

FILE - In this May 13, 2019 file photo provided by the National Park Service is a female condor in Zion National Park, Utah. Seven environmental and animal protection groups have filed the first lawsuit challenging the Trump administration's recent rollbacks to the Endangered Species Act. Their lawsuit filed Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2019, in federal court in San Francisco comes after the federal government announced last week it was rescinding some protections for wildlife. (National Park Service via AP, File)
FILE – In this May 13, 2019 file photo provided by the National Park Service is a female condor in Zion National Park, Utah. Seven environmental and animal protection groups have filed the first lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s recent rollbacks to the Endangered Species Act. Their lawsuit filed Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2019, in federal court in San Francisco comes after the federal government announced last week it was rescinding some protections for wildlife. (National Park Service via AP, File)

  • Federal agencies are working to reverse Trump-era rollbacks on the Endangered Species Act.
  • In 2018, the Interior Dept. revealed changes to the ESA that put some species at risk of extinction.
  • GOP critics said rescinding the rollbacks will allow environmental groups “to weaponize the ESA.”
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The Biden administration is set to reverse Trump-era rollbacks on endangered species protections “in the coming months,” federal agencies announced Friday.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service said in a statement Friday that, per an executive order, the Biden administration “directed all federal agencies to review and address” environmental policy rollbacks enacted during the Trump administration.

The federal agencies are tasked with initiating “rulemaking in the coming months to revise, rescind, or reinstate” five regulations on the Endangered Species Act that were put into place by former President Donald Trump.

In 2018, then-Interior Department Secretary Ryan Zinke announced a set of changes to the Endangered Species Act, undermining the protections of the act and putting several threatened species at risk of extinction. According to a press release, the agencies plan to rescind regulations on critical habitat designations and reinstate protections for threatened plants and animals.

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is committed to working with diverse federal, Tribal, state and industry partners to not only protect and recover America’s imperiled wildlife but to ensure cornerstone laws like the Endangered Species Act are helping us meet 21st century challenges,” Martha Williams, principal deputy director of the Fish and Wildlife Service, said in a statement.

“We look forward to continuing these conservation collaborations and to ensuring our efforts are fully transparent and inclusive,” Williams continued.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland had previously said rescinding the Trump-era rollbacks on the ESA was at the top of her priorities as head of the agency.

The move to reverse the Trump-era regulations brought backlash from Republicans, including Rep. Bruce Westerman, the top GOP lawmaker on the House Natural Resources Committee.

“By reinstating burdensome regulations, this administration has once again opened the door for environmental groups to weaponize the ESA and use it to delay critical projects across the country,” Westerman said in a statement. “These changes will result in greater inefficiency in the federal permitting process and reduce incentives for proactive conservation.”

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South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem sued the Biden administration because it wont let her hold a July 4 fireworks show at Mount Rushmore

Trump Mount Rushmore
US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump attend Independence Day events at Mount Rushmore in Keystone, South Dakota, July 3, 2020.

  • South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem sued the US Department of the Interior, she announced Friday.
  • The US government has refused the state’s request to hold a July 4 fireworks show at Mount Rushmore.
  • Last year, former President Trump spoke at an event at Mount Rushmore during a COVID-19 surge.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem on Friday announced a lawsuit against the US Department of Interior because it refused the state’s request to issue a permit for an Independence Day celebration at Mount Rushmore.

“After telling us they’d ‘circle back,’ the Biden administration has not responded to our request to uphold the Memorandum of Agreement between the State of South Dakota and the National Parks Service (NPS) to host a safe and responsible national celebration and fireworks show,” Noem, a Republican in her first term, said in a Friday press release.

“Unfortunately, the new administration departed from precedent and reneged on this agreement without any meaningful explanation,” she continued. “We are asking the court to enjoin the Department of Interior’s (DOI) denial of the fireworks permit and order it to issue a permit for the event expeditiously.”

Last year, former President Donald Trump addressed a crowd at an Independence Day event on the evening of July 3 during the height of his failed campaign for reelection. Last year’s event came amid a surge of coronavirus cases, as The New York Times reported at the time.

In April, Noem wrote President Joe Biden a letter, asking him to direct officials at the DOI to issue the permit for the celebration. In her letter, Noem noted that Biden previously said Americans would be able to gather on Independence Day this year, though the president’s remarks did not reference large-scale gatherings, but instead referred to small, “backyard” gatherings.

“That doesn’t mean large events with lots of people together, but it does mean small groups will be able to get together,” Biden said on March 11.

Noem filed her lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of South Dakota Central Division. It names Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, the deputy assistant secretary of the interior for fish and wildlife and parks, the director of operations of the National Park Service; and the National Park Service director of the Midwest Region.

Herbert Frost, the NPS director for the region, denied the state’s request in March.

“Potential risks to the park itself and to the health and safety of employees and visitors associated with the fireworks demonstration continue to be a concern and are still being evaluated as a result of the 2020 event,” Frost wrote in a letter explaining his decision. “In addition, the park’s many tribal partners expressly oppose fireworks at the Memorial.”

He continued: “These factors, compiled with the COVID-19 pandemic, do not allow a safe and responsible fireworks display to be held at this site.”

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Biden will create a task force to support strengthening unions and their membership

Biden
President Joe Biden.

  • President Joe Biden is creating a task force to strengthen unions and their membership.
  • The task force will look into existing and new policies to strengthen worker power.
  • The rate of unionization has fallen in the past 40 years, and Amazon workers recently led a failed union drive.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

President Joe Biden is creating a task force to help promote and strengthen union membership through an executive order today.

According to the White House, the task force – which will be chaired by Vice President Kamala Harris, with Labor Secretary Marty Walsh serving as vice chair – will focus on helping to bolster union membership and worker organizing and bargaining.

The task force will examine both existing policies and the need for new ones, and report back recommendations within 180 days. The group will also include Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland.

“Since 1935, when the National Labor Relations Act was enacted, the policy of the federal government has been to encourage worker organizing and collective bargaining, not to merely allow or tolerate them,” the White House release said. “In the 86 years since the Act was passed, the federal government has never fully implemented this policy.”

The main focuses of the task force include setting up the federal government as a “model employer,” helping to bolster worker organizing – especially by increasing power for marginalized workers, and those in industries where organizing is difficult – as well as generally upping the number of workers in unions.

Union membership has fallen

A report from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), a left-leaning think tank, found that the number of workers who are represented by a union declined by 444,000 from 2019 to 2020.

However, the rate of unionization – the share of workers represented by one – actually increased in 2020, to 12.1% from 11.6%. The report attributes that to the power that unions give their workers, potentially resulting in those unionized workers having more of a say in how their workplaces functioned during the pandemic and its economic impact. And industries that are less unionized – the report cites leisure and hospitality – also saw the most job losses.

On the whole, according to EPI, the unionization rate is highest for Black workers, coming in at 13.9%. Throughout the pandemic, both that rate and the number of Black workers represented by a union increased.

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics also found that “Nonunion workers had median weekly earnings that were 84 percent of earnings for workers who were union members ($958 versus $1,144).”

However, in a historical context, unionization rates are still very low. EPI said 2020’s rate is still below half of what it was 40 years ago. Amazon workers had a recent high-profile union loss, as workers in a Bessemer, Alabama warehouse voted against forming a union. That unit would’ve been the first union for the company.

“Amazon didn’t win – our employees made the choice to vote against joining a union,” the company said in a statement after the vote, over which the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) has filed official objections.

But with Biden’s task force, union membership could see a boost. The president has also backed a labor-rights bill called the PRO Act.

“As America works to recover from the devastating challenges of deadly pandemic, an economic crisis, and reckoning on race that reveals deep disparities, we need to summon a new wave of worker power to create an economy that works for everyone,” Biden said in a March statement on the bill.

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Senate confirms Deb Haaland as interior secretary, making her the US’s first Native American Cabinet secretary

Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington on Wednesday, May 27, 2020.
Rep. Deb Haaland (D-New Mexico) speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill.

  • The Senate voted 51-40 on Monday to confirm Deb Haaland as interior secretary.
  • With the historic vote, she becomes the first Native American to serve in a presidential Cabinet.
  • Haaland received bipartisan support.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The Senate voted 51-40 on Monday to confirm Deb Haaland as interior secretary, making her the country’s first Native American Cabinet secretary and creating a new chapter in the relationship between the federal government and Indigenous peoples of the United States.

Four Republicans joined Democrats to confirm Haaland: Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan of Alaska, and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

Haaland, a congresswoman from New Mexico and a citizen of the state’s Laguna Pueblo tribe, thanked the Senate for her confirming her nomination in a tweet shortly after the vote.

“As Secretary of Interior, I look forward to collaborating with all of you,” Haaland wrote. “I am ready to serve. #BeFierce.”

President Joe Biden nominated Haaland to lead the Interior Department last December, describing her as “a barrier-breaking public servant who has spent her career fighting for families, including in Tribal Nations, rural communities, and communities of color” and who would “be ready on day one to protect our environment and fight for a clean energy future.”

After Biden’s initial announcement, Haaland highlighted the groundbreaking nature of her nomination.

“A voice like mine has never been a Cabinet secretary or at the head of the Department of Interior,” she wrote on Twitter. “Growing up in my mother’s Pueblo household made me fierce. I’ll be fierce for all of us, our planet, and all of our protected land. I am honored and ready to serve.”

In 2018, Haaland made history alongside Democratic Rep. Sharice Davids of Kansas, becoming one of the first two Native American women ever elected to serve in Congress.

As a former environmental activist, Haaland has long backed progressive approaches to climate change, coming out against fracking and drilling on public lands.

As secretary of the US Department of the Interior, Haaland will play a key role in pursuing Biden’s climate agenda, which involves politically-sensitive topics such as fossil-fuel production and environmental regulations on federal lands. The department manages roughly 500 million acres of public lands and coastal waters.

In her opening statement before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee last month, Haaland said she would respect the significance of fossil-fuel production as interior secretary while also noting issues surrounding climate change must be addressed.

“As I’ve learned in this role, there’s no question fossil energy does and will continue to play a major role in America for years to come,” she said. “I know how important oil and gas revenues are to critical services. But we must also recognize that the energy industry is innovating, and our climate challenge must be addressed.”

She added: “Together we can work to position our nation and all of its people for success in the future, and I am committed to working cooperatively with all stakeholders, and all of Congress, to strike the right balance going forward.”

Democrats were strongly supportive of Haaland’s confirmation; she even picked up the support of Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a moderate who is deeply protective of his coal-producing state’s energy output.

“I believe Deb Haaland will be a secretary of the Interior for every American and will vote to confirm her,″ Manchin said in a statement last month. “While we do not agree on every issue, she reaffirmed her strong commitment to bipartisanship, addressing the diverse needs of our country and maintaining our nation’s energy independence.”

GOP Sens. John Barrasso of Wyoming and Steve Daines of Montana both described Haaland’s environmental views as “radical,” which include her opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline, which Biden canceled shortly after taking office, but the Republican opposition was not substantial enough to block her confirmation.

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