Photo credit: Getty Images
The embattled polar bear is on thinner ice than it's ever been. Five industry groups, including the American Petroleum Institute, filed suit Thursday against Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director H. Dale Hall in an attempt to reverse listing the polar bear as a threatened species.
This give Alaska Gov. (and vice-presidential hopeful) Sarah Palin's administration's own lawsuit opposing the polar bear's listing a boost. On August 4, the state of Alaska argued that the animal's populations are stable and that melting sea ice isn't an immediate threat to their survival.
The petroleum institute was joined in the lawsuit by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Mining Association, the American Iron and Steel Institute, and the National Association of Manufacturers, the last of which recently praised Palin's Republican vice-presidential nomination because of her support of Alaskan oil and gas exploration.
The industry groups' main objection is to what they call the "Alaska Gap," a special rule issued by the federal government meant to prevent the polar bear's protected status from being used to impose greenhouse-gas limits. Because the ruling exempts projects in all states except Alaska from undergoing emissions reviews, NAM vice president Keith McCoy says it unfairly subjects Alaskan industry to greenhouse-gas controls and may open a backdoor for tighter emissions regulations nationwide.
"This could significantly curtail oil and gas exploration," especially on Alaska's North Slope, he's quoted in The Washington Post as saying. "It's discrimination against the state of Alaska. During a time when gas prices are high and we need to look at all options, to issue something that shuts off a viable resource" is ill-advised.
To add insult to injury, Palin chose the grizzly bear over the Arctic resident for the state's commemorative quarter, which was released into circulation last week. ::The Washington Post
Update, Sept. 3, 2008: The Washington Post has submitted a correction to its story:
An Aug. 31 A-section article incorrectly said that the American Petroleum Institute and four other business groups seek to challenge the listing of the polar bear as a threatened species. The groups are trying to enjoin the federal government from implementing a rule they call the "Alaska Gap," which subjects projects in Alaska to extra scrutiny. The federal government issued the rule in May in conjunction with the announcement of the polar bear's protected status.
According to a statement from the American Petroleum Institute, it's not challenging the listing of the polar bear as a threatened species. It believes, however, that the Interior Department's "determination that the Endangered Species Act is not the right tool to set U.S. climate policy makes sense, and that the interim final rule issued by the Department needs to be expanded to include Alaska as the Act is implemented." To the polar bears we say, hang on to your fur (and icebergs), because this is far from over.
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