Target: President Barack Obama
Goal: Protect manatees from suddenly losing warm water refuges, and ensure plans to close polluting power plants are also designed to protect threatened species.
The federal Clean Power Plan, in an attempt to combat climate change, will force closure of coal-fired power plants. Among the coal-fired plants most likely to be closed under the plan are Florida’s Big Bend Power Station and Crystal River Plant, both of which are relied on by manatees as warm-water refuges in winter. Though commendable in its effort to mitigate global warming and reduce fossil fuel emissions, the Clean Power Plan fails to provide a plan for these manatees, who are a threatened species.
Federal agencies are required by the Endangered Species Act to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service before implementing a plan that may negatively affect any threatened species. Rapid decreases in temperature can cause myriad health problems for manatees including skin lesions, infections, digestive problems and, in extreme cases, death. Estimates by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service indicate that up to two-thirds of manatees are dependent on warm-water refuges provided by coal plants. It’s clear that closure of coal-fired plants has the potential to negatively affect manatee populations; therefore, consultation with the Fish and Wildlife is necessary, and could yield a workable alternative warm-water refuge plan for manatees.
The EPA has shirked the responsibility of consultation by stating that the Clean Power Plan is implemented at a state level. However, the plan originates at the federal level, and should therefore be required to meet the Endangered Species Act’s requirements. Republicans have transparently attempted to use the issue of manatee conservation, and the circumventing of the Endangered Species Act’s requirements, to shut down the entire Clean Power Plan. Collaboration with Fish and Wildlife to produce an alternative warm water refuge plan would have the double benefit of protecting the Clean Power Plan from Republican sabotage and benefiting the manatee population.
The Clean Power Plan, while a bold strike against climate change, is flawed in its lack of provision for manatees who rely on coal-fired plants as warm-water refuges. Republicans have been transparent in utilizing this flaw to attack the plan in its entirety. The Endangered Species Act has been circumvented, and no consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has occurred with regard to this plan, even though the potential negative effects for manatees, a threatened species, are clear.
While we commend you for taking steps to mitigate climate change, we believe that the lack of consultation with Fish and Wildlife, along with the absence of a clear alternative plan for manatees, weakens the Clean Power Plan and exposes it to attack. Collaboration with Fish and Wildlife to produce an alternative plan would have a double benefit: protecting the Clean Power Plan from Republican sabotage, and ensuring the safety of manatees. We, the undersigned, urge you to consult the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, develop a plan for the manatees, and include this in the Clean Power Plan.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: A. Hodges