Polar bears are a threatened species, Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne announced Wednesday — but that doesn’t mean we can’t drill in their habitat! The “threatened” designation means the bear could become endangered if conservation steps aren’t taken; it puts polar bears on the endangered-species list but in effect allows Interior to pick and choose which protections to impose. And those protections will, says the very subhead of the departmental press release, “allow continuation of vital energy production in Alaska.” While the polar bear is being listed specifically because climate change is melting its habitat, Interior took pains to point out that the listing “should not open the door to use of the [Endangered Species Act] to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions from automobiles, power plants, and other sources.” In fact, the department plans to propose modifying the regulatory language in the ESA to “prevent abuse of this listing to erect a back-door climate policy.”
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