The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Brendan Cummings, (760) 366-2232 x 304

New Obama Offshore Oil Plan Sacrifices Polar Bear Habitat


Interior Secretary Ken Salazar today issued a revised offshore oil plan
that will allow drilling in the heart of polar bear habitat
in Alaska.
Salazar's announcement, which came in response to a previous court
ruling, finalized a revised 2007-2012 nationwide offshore oil leasing plan.
The previous plan, issued under the Bush administration, had been
overturned by a federal appeals court for failing to properly analyze
impacts of drilling off the Arctic coast of Alaska. Salazar's new plan
reaffirms a 2008 lease sale in polar bear critical habitat in the Chukchi Sea.

again Secretary Salazar has placed political expediency over sound science
and the rule of law, and polar bears and other arctic species will suffer
for it," said Brendan Cummings, senior counsel at the Center for
Biological Diversity.

development in the Chukchi Sea, home to America's polar bears,
remains a dangerous proposition because no technologies exist to clean up
oil spills in icy waters. Today's plan upholds the sale of leases in
the Chukchi.

Center for Biological Diversity and other organizations filed a court
challenge to the 2007-2012 offshore oil leasing plan issued by the Bush
administration. The Court of Appeals for the District
of Columbia set aside that plan for failing to adequately
assess the environmental impacts of opening up areas off Alaska to drilling. Today's
announcement comes in response to that ruling. A court in Alaska
also separately ruled this year that the environmental analysis underlying
the lease sale in the Chukchi
Sea was unlawful.

"Secretary Salazar has apparently learned nothing from either the
Gulf spill or the courts. No matter how many times the courts overturn his
decisions to open the Arctic to oil, he
comes back with the exact same decision," said Cummings. "This
year in the Gulf of Mexico we saw the
damage that a massive oil spill can cause. Given the lack of clean-up
technology for an oil spill in the Arctic, Salazar's decision to move
forward with the Chukchi leases demonstrates that all the promised reforms
following the Gulf spill ultimately mean nothing for the Arctic."

In a separate but related development, also in response to a court order,
Salazar announced on Wednesday he would uphold a Bush-era decision to list
polar bears as merely "threatened," rather than the more
protective status of "endangered." Such a move allows Salazar
to exempt greenhouse gas polluters nationwide, as well as oil companies
operating in polar bear habitat, from some of the Endangered Species
Act's most protective provisions.

week Secretary Salazar has delivered a double-barreled blast to the future
of the polar bear," said Cummings. "At this rate Secretary
Salazar will be writing the polar bear's obituary rather than its
recovery plan."

At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature — to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters and climate that species need to survive.

(520) 623-5252