Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Polar Insanity

Polar bears are thriving. Their numbers are at their highest in half a century. Polar ice has become significantly thicker this year. Listing polar bears under the Endangered Species Act under these circumstances would be inexplicable. Yet today, that is what Bush's Interior Department did, though with sufficient caveats that the far left will not be able to use the decision to shut down the entirity of the U.S. economy.


This from the Washington Post:

Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne said he made the decision to list the bear as threatened based on scientific evidence showing that the animal's "sea-ice habitat has dramatically melted in recent decades" and "is likely to further recede in the future." He said polar bears thus are "likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future -- in this case 45 years."

. . . "Although the population of bears has grown from a low of about 12,000 in the late 1960s to approximately 25,000 today, our scientists advise me that computer modeling projects a significant population decline by the year 2050," Kempthorne said. "This, in my judgment, makes the polar bear a threatened species -- one likely to become in danger of extinction in the foreseeable future."

Read the entire article. That this decision could be made on computer modeling rather than a single hard fact showing a decline in the polar bear population is sheer insanity. Yet for all of that, it could have been much worse. The decision did not quite hand a skeleton key to the courthouse to the Goracle. This from the NYT:

Barton H. Thompson Jr., a law professor and director of the Woods Institute of the Environment at Stanford University, said Wednesday that while the Interior Department gave itself “sufficient room” to list the polar bear, it did not provide “environmental organizations with a mechanism for trying to address climate change.”

He said that lawsuits challenging the connection between a factory’s greenhouse-gas emissions and the threat to individual polar bears might provide difficult to win.

“Interior has a reasonable case here that the connection is just too far removed,” he said.

The provision of the act that the department is using to lighten the regulatory burden that the listing imposes on the oil and gas industry — known as a 4(d) rule — was designed to permit flexibility in the management of threatened species, as long as the chances of conservation of the species would be enhanced, or at least not diminished.

Kassie Siegel, a lawyer for the Center for Biological Diversity, one of three groups that originally sued to have the polar bear listed as threatened, said Wednesday that the decision was an acknowledgement of “global warming’s urgency,” but that it fell short of helping the polar bear.

“The administration acknowledges the bear is in need of intensive care,” Ms. Siegel said. “The listing lets the bear into the hospital, but then the 4(d) rule says the bear’s insurance doesn’t cover the necessary treatments.” . . .

Read the entire article. Also from the WaPo article, it appears the Sierra Club and other far left organizations are not reacting well to this decision:

[T]he Sierra Club charged that "Big Oil" would be the ultimate beneficiary of Kempthorne's action.

"After months of delay, the Interior Department has finally recognized that polar bears are on the brink of extinction," Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope said in a statement. "But the administration's decision is riddled with loopholes, caveats and backhanded language that could actually undermine protections for the polar bear and other species."

Pope added: "We can't protect polar bears unless we combat global warming and keep oil drills out of their habitat. Yet, the administration is so keen to appease Big Oil" that it promotes continued drilling in the polar bear habitat in spite of today's listing.

"Drilling would inundate polar bear habitat with pipelines, well pads, boat traffic, ice-breaking vessels and seismic blasting, not to mention the ever-present threat of oil spills," Pope said. He said the proposed rule changes "could gut the Endangered Species Act and prevent it from ever being used to actually protect the polar bear or address global warming -- which is precisely what is pushing the bear toward extinction."

This decision will do little more than set off a whole new round of litigation. As far as any new drilling for oil in ANWR or elsewhere in Alaska, I'll be surprised if any occurs. Possibly the only bright spot is that this highly questionable decision will not alone be used to shut down the U.S. economy in its entirity over the next decade.

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