Natural Gas vs. Endangered Species

Okay, I know that oil prices are high, but this is ridiculous...

A natural gas company, NiSource, is seeking a federal permit to exempt itself from protecting endangered species along 15,500 miles of its pipelines. The area -- nearly ten million acres in total -- crosses 17 states and is the home to 75 species that are currently protected under the Endangered Species Act.

In a particularly amusing example of corporate double-speak, NiSource is calling this their "Habitat Conservation Plan."

As the Charleston Gazette reports:

If approved, the permit would allow NiSource to avoid case-by-case review of the impacts of pipeline operations and maintenance on endangered species.

Instead, one "incidental take permit" would allow the company to harm endangered species as long as it followed a "habitat conservation plan" meant to minimize destruction or mitigate the damage.

Endangered species which could be impacted by this petition include several species of bats, salamanders, perlymussels and snakes, plus species such as the brown pelican, piping plover, pallid sturgeon, Karner blue butterfly, Louisiana black bear and Tennessee yellow-eyed grass.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is currently conducting an Environmental Impact Statement on this proposal. Public meetings are being held over the next few weeks, and public comments will be accepted through December 8th.

NiSource expects to submit its draft "habitat conservation plan" in the second quart of 2008 for approval in 2009. Let's hope it doesn't go that far.

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