Sources: Obama to Freeze Bush Species Rule

President Obama wants agencies, at least for now, to resume full scientific reviews of projects that might harm endangered wildlife and plants.

Officials said Tuesday that the president will sign a presidential memorandum to put on hold a last-minute Bush regulation until the Interior and Commerce departments complete a review of the rule.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they did not want to get ahead of the president's announcement during a visit to the Interior Department.

The Bush-era regulation made optional the consultations federal scientists have performed for 35 years on endangered species decisions. The rule allowed federal agencies to decide for themselves whether projects such as dams and power plants posed risks to endangered species or the places they live.

The existing rule also prohibits a project's contribution to global warming from being part of the evaluation of any threat to endangered species.

The changes, completed in just four months, were described at the time by the Bush administration as minor. But Democrats and environmentalists have argued that the regulations modified long-standing policy.

Democratic leaders in Congress who are attempting to reverse the rule applauded the president's decision.

"I wholeheartedly support the president's proposal to restore the protections for endangered species that the Bush administration spent so many years trying to undermine," said Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., who chairs the House Natural Resources Committee.

Rahall is pushing to overturn the rule through a congressional resolution. There is also a provision tucked into the $410 billion spending bill the House passed last week that would allow the Interior and Commerce secretaries to withdraw regulations.

Since the Bush rule took effect before Obama was sworn in, a rule overturning it would have to go through a lengthy review process before taking effect.