Environmental News Service
WASHINGTON, DC, January 17, 2008 (ENS) - Key polar bear habitat should be held off limits to oil and gas drilling until federal wildlife officials have determined whether the species should be listed for protection under the Endangered Species Act, the chair of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming said today.
"Order matters," said committee chair Ed Markey a Massachusetts Democrat. "You don't put on your shoes before your socks … and we shouldn't be selling the drilling rights in this important polar bear habitat before deciding how we are going to protect them."
Markey convened the hearing in the wake of an announcement on January 7 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that it will delay a decision on whether the polar bear should be listed as "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act.
The delay makes it likely the decision on listing will come after the U.S. Minerals Management Service sells oil and gas leases in Alaska’s Chukchi Sea, inhabited by some 2,000 polar bears.
Guess who objects to the delay? Our guy, F. James Sensenbrenner, a non-believer in climate change.
The scientific evidence indicates "going ahead with the lease will not have a major impact on the habitat of polar bears in this part of the sea across Alaska," said Representative F. James Sensenbrenner, a Wisconsin Republican.
That drew the ire of Representative Jay Inslee, a Washington Democrat, who argued that such a view ignores the growing evidence that global warming is well underway and already harming the polar bear.
"This is the last chance for the polar bear," he said. "It is unbelievable to me that people are still adopting the attitude of the ostrich. One million square miles of the Arctic disappeared this summer … stunning the scientific community. This is visual evidence. It is not theoretical, it is not hypothetical. It is gone."
No word on whether Sensenbrenner was wearing his socks over his shoes.