Whatever one feels about climate change, any decisions taken to increase the regulations on the output of hydrocarbons should be made in the open and by Congress.
The proposed listing was issued on January 9 2007 and the original comment period extended until April 9, 2007, and was reopened in October for a brief period of time. Every industry that emits hydrocarbons and needs federal permits to continue operations had better pay attention. Here’s the language from the proposed listing:
The primary threat to polar bears is the decrease of sea ice coverage. Although some females use snow dens on land for birthing cubs, polar bears are almost completely dependent upon sea ice for their sustenance. Any significant changes in the abundance, distribution, or existence of sea ice will have effects on the number and behavior of these animals and their prey.
The notice of the proposed listing adds:
Potential Effects of Contaminants and/or Climate Change on Polar Bears
Ecological changes in the Arctic related to both anthropogenic and natural patterns are poorly understood but are of significant conservation concern. A circumpolar study is currently underway to determine contaminant levels in polar bears and compare results with findings from a similar study completed 10 years ago. A bio-monitoring program is ongoing in Alaska.
Changes in sea ice as a result of global warming are known to affect polar bear productivity in other parts of the Arctic. An effort is currently underway in Alaska to assess sea ice habitat selection by polar bears using polar bear satellite radio locations and National Ice Center charts.
If the polar bear is listed as threatened, then under Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act, every action by a federal agency that could impact the polar bear would have to be reviewed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service via a “Section 7 consultation,” which take long periods of time and which often result in extremely costly assessments of mitigation measures. Given the highly contentious arguments over the causes of global warming and thus of the loss of sea ice deemed to be the biggest threat to the polar bears, except environmental activists to begin suing a variety of federal agencies to enforce the requirements of Section 7 on any number of federal permits, such as those associated with the production of oil and gas.
The federal Endangered Species Act has long been known as extremely burdensome to practioners and the landowners they represent. If the polar bear is listed, a new set of industries will feel those burdens directly. If they haven’t already filed comments on the proposed listing they ought to very soon.