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The Polar Bear Plan

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A review of the plans by environmental activists to follow up the polar bear’s listing as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act:

[L]ike scores of other species-protection cases won by the Center for Biological Diversity in the past, this is but the first step in a long, arduous process to translate the listing into action.

The center petitioned for the polar bear’s listing back in 2005. It later sued along with Greenpeace and the Natural Resources Defense Council to force the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list it.
The center’s blueprint for saving the polar bear is ambitious and complex. It includes:
? Challenging offshore oil and gas leasing in Alaska within six months.
? Launching a large-scale challenge to the licensing of coal-fired power plants around the country sometime after that.
? Finally, challenging large-scale, local government development plans in major cities.
These efforts would be in the name of reducing greenhouse gases that many scientists are now linked to the breakup of the Arctic-area sea ice on which polar bears live.
“We are trying to change national and international policy,” said Tucsonan Kieran Suckling, the center’s director.

The best move for the energy industry is to bring actions now challenging the smallest emission of greenhouse gases facilitated by federal permit. The causal connection between a large emitter and a tiny emitter are functionally the same –non-existent– but public perception allows the former to be more easily burdened than the latter. Since the law allows anyone to bring suit, large emitters ought to be attempting to force small emitters to carry part of the burden now rather than waiting to get tagged by the activists in the order the activists would prefer.

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