Alaska to file suit against polar bear ruling

22 May 2008 21:02  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS news)--The Alaska state government will file suit on Friday seeking to reverse a federal decision to list the polar bear as a threatened species, saying on Thursday that the listing was unjustified and puts US energy resources at risk.


The state was reacting to last week’s decision by the US Interior Department to classify the polar bear as threatened because of reduced sea ice in the polar region, said to be the result of global warming.


Alaska Governor Sarah Palin (Republican) said the lawsuit is necessary because the department’s action is not supported by science and puts the economy of Alaska and the entire US at risk.


The Interior Department ruling was the first federal action to protect an animal species based on the perceived and anticipated effects of global warming. The ruling is seen by many as an opening for environmentalists who want to permanently bar oil and gas drilling along Alaska’s resource-rich north coast and elsewhere.

US chemical manufacturers and the broader manufacturing industry are anxious to see increased natural gas production from Alaska. The chemicals industry is heavily dependent on gas as a feedstock and energy source.


“Without question, this litigation challenging the [Interior Department] secretary’s decision will be of immense significance to Alaska and the nation,” Palin said. She said she expects the state challenge to the polar bear listing ultimately will find its way to the US Supreme Court.


However, it could take years for the state challenge to reach the US high court, and in the meantime the state plans to seek an injunction against the Interior Department to prevent whatever enforcement or energy development restrictions that might flow from the polar bear listing decision, according to Steven Daugherty, assistant attorney general for Alaska.


“The primary reason we are filing suit is that the Interior Department’s decision is bad and it is unprecedented to list as threatened a currently healthy species based on highly speculative modelling of what global warming effects might be,” Daugherty said.


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By: Joe Kamalick
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