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A victory for the polar bears

 Polar bears have gained an edge in U.S. Arctic waters — for now. A federal U.S. court has stopped oil and gas companies from going ahead with drilling  operations in millions of acres across Alaska’s Chukchi Sea. known as one of the country’s “polar bear seas.”

This victory comes after George W. Bush sold off drilling rights cheap in the fnal days of his administration.  This move prompted a federal lawsuit from Alaska First Nations residents and environmental groups such as Earthjustice and Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). The suit charged that the U.S. government had failed to study the long-term impact of oil development and had broken the nation’s environmental law.

A federal judge agreed, ordering the Obama administration, which had adopted the Bush administration’s drilling policy, to start again and obtain missing information about environmental risks.

“We can’t afford a repeat of the Gulf oil spill disaster in the Arctic,” said Chuck Clusen, director of NRDC’s Alaska projects.

Unfortunately, this court ruling does not cover the Beaufort Sea, where Shell and BP still operate. Shell says that it will apply for new permits to drill in this region next year after Obama last summer put Shell’s plans on hold to drill off the coast of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. BP also is preparing to drill in the Beaufort, using the biggest drill rig in the world. Environmental activists are demanding that the Obama administration reject BP’s appication to drill, and they will go to court on this, if necessary, to stop the drilling.

Meanwhile, the Canadian federal government is studying the “economic benefit” of polar bears. Gee, I guess just existing as magnificent wild creatures, with lives threatened by global warming,  isn’t enough these days.

The Globe and Mail had a funny editorial cartoon on Oct. 1 about this. It depicts a government tax man with a briefcase standing in an inflatable raft, pointing an income tax form at a polar bear on an ice floe; he’s notifying the perplexed creature of its tax reporting obligations and deadline.

(Most of this information came from the NRDC newsletter Nature’s Voice.)

October 12, 2010 at 10:51 am
  • October 12, 2010 at 10:50 pmRobyn

    Thanks for sharing. How long does it take a government to learn from past mistakes?

  • October 12, 2010 at 2:29 pmSteve

    Very insightful

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