msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 12/30/2008 4:40:27 PM ET 2008-12-30T21:40:27

California is suing the Bush administration to block last-minute endangered species regulations that are intended to reduce input from federal scientists.

Attorney General Jerry Brown announced Tuesday that he had filed the federal lawsuit late Monday in San Francisco.

"The Bush Administration is seeking to gut the Endangered Species Act on its way out the door," the Democrat and former California governor said in a statement. "This is an audacious attempt to circumvent a time-tested statute that for 35 years has required scientific review of proposed federal agency decisions that affect wildlife."

The Interior Department issued the revised rules earlier this month. They allow federal agencies to issue permits for mining, logging and similar activities without getting a review from biologists.

The changes also eliminate a requirement that agencies consider the effects of greenhouse gas emissions when reviewing projects on federal land.

Interior Department spokeswoman Tina Kreisher said the revised rules will continue to protect threatened and endangered species and noted that the law says federal agencies will ensure no listed animals are killed.

California asked a federal court to block the changes, arguing the Interior Department:

• Violated the Endangered Species Act by adopting regulations that are inconsistent with that statute;
• Violated the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to consider the environmental ramifications of the proposed new regulations; and
• Violated the Administrative Procedures Act by not adequately considering public comments submitted by the attorney general and numerous other organizations and concerned citizens.

The state lawsuit follows three similar ones filed earlier by environmental groups.

California is home to 310 plant and animal species listed as endangered or threatened by the federal government, more than any state except Hawaii, according to the complaint.

More on the Endangered Species Act

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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