In a report card released Tuesday, the Center for Biological Diversity gave the President a grade of "C" saying, "While the Obama administration has not shown the ideological opposition to environmental protection of the previous administration and has taken a number of positive steps, it has fallen far short of delivering the promised change in overall environmental policies."
Among the positives are issuing a finding under the Clean Air Act that greenhouse gases endanger public health and welfare and reinstating protection for millions of acres of roadless public lands.
Negatives include reducing protections for wolves and other endangered species and pursuing offshore oil development in polar bear habitat off Alaska. The Obama administration advanced a Bush initiative to remove protections for the gray wolf, and has only listed two new species as endangered, which is the fewest protected in the first year of any administration since President Ronald Reagan, who took office in 1981.
"The Obama administration has begun to steer the ship in the right direction," said Noah Greenwald, endangered species program director for the Center for Biological Diversity. "But it has failed to provide the strong leadership to get us on the course we need to be following to address the pressing problems of species extinction and global warming."
On the Center's report card, the Obama administration scored highest in the area of public lands protection - a "B+" for reinstating the Clinton-era Roadless Rule that protects 58 million acres from development and for withdrawl of the Bush-era Western Oregon Plan Revision, which would have allowed logging of tens of thousands of acres of old-growth forests in the Pacific Northwest.
But the administration allowed the logging of roadless areas in Alaska to proceed.
On oceans, the administration received a "B-" from the Center based on its acknowledgment that ocean acidification is a serious threat and its initiation of a process for determining how to address the problem. However, the administration has also allowed oil drilling off Alaska and has weakened protection for endangered sea turtles from longline fisheries near Hawaii.
On climate and energy, the Center gave the administration a "C-" for positive steps such as issuing a finding under the Clean Air Act that greenhouse gases endanger public health and welfare, setting the stage for greenhouse gas regulations under the Act.
President Barack Obama joins FPL Group Chairman and CEO Lew Hay at the commissioning ceremony of the largest photovoltaic solar facility in the nation in Arcadia, Florida, on Oct. 26, 2009. (Photo courtesy FPL)
The Center praised the administration's economic stimulus bill with billions of dollars of tax credits and subsidies for improving energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.
But the Center faults Obama for failing "to advance the greenhouse emissions reduction targets that scientists believe are necessary to avoid the worst impacts of global warming either in the legislation being considered by Congress or at the international climate talks in Copenhagen last December."
The administration also has continued to grant permits and leases for fossil fuel exploration and extraction, including mountaintop removal in Appalachia and the expansion of coal mining in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming.
The League of Conservation Voters issued its own climate and energy report card on Obama's first year, giving the President much higher marks.
LCV Director Gene Karpinski said, "In his first year in office, the President has turned words into action and achieved real results that are beginning to pave the way toward a clean energy economy that creates jobs, increases our energy independence and protects the planet."
"There is little doubt that President Obama has accomplished more to create clean energy jobs and curb global warming pollution during his first year than any other president has accomplished during an entire term," the LCV said in its evaluation. "However, the fact that a comprehensive clean energy and climate bill has not yet been signed into law means that he falls slightly short of acing his first year in office and results in a solid "B+" grade."
Among the highlights of President Obama's first year according to the League of Conservation are:
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