Pipeline Palin’s Crusade Against Polar Bears

Our guest blogger is Deborah Brennan, a journalist in Southern California.

Drowning in the gaps left by melting Arctic ice, the polar bears of Alaska have become one of the first creatures to make the endangered species list because of global warming. This was a double blow to Big Oil, as the industry’s pollution is responsible for climate change, and the polar bear seas are sitting on billions of dollars worth of oil and gas. So Gov. Sarah “Pipeline” Palin (R-AK), literally married to the oil industry, is facing down the half-ton carnivore in her legal sights — proving herself more environmentally extreme than Texas oilman Bush.

When the Bush administration reluctantly proposed listing the polar bear as a threatened species early this year, Pipeline Palin sided with the oil and gas industry and countered with a New York Times Op-Ed opposing the federal listing and then, once the administration went through this May, with a lawsuit against its implementation.

Now, it’s hard to believe that anyone not holed up in a militia compound could adopt a position more unfriendly to the Endangered Species Act than Bush and Cheney, but Palin made it clear that the administration was going a bit soft and green on the matter. What’s more, she maintained:

My decision is based on a comprehensive review by state wildlife officials of scientific information from a broad range of climate, ice and polar bear experts.

When University of Alaska professor Rick Steiner sought a copy of that review, the Anchorage Daily News reported, he was informed that the documents he requested would cost $468,784. (Apparently the cost of photocopies has gone up since the Freedom of Information Act was enacted.) Steiner subsequently obtained e-mail records indicating that Alaska state biologists actually supported the listing. He told the Anchorage Daily News:

Even the petroleum-loving Bush administration couldn’t find a way around the science on this issue.

The clear scientific evidence of global warming’s effects was airily dismissed by Palin as “uncertain modeling of possible effects.” In a June, 2008 interview with conservative pundit Glenn Beck, Palin maintained that polar bears are “very, very healthy,” and that “the number of polar bears has risen dramatically in the last 30 years.” In fact, Congressional testimony on the polar bear cites a 17 percent drop in the Southern Beaufort Sea populations since the 1980s, with reductions in skull size, cub survival and adult male weight.


Those declines coincide with the catastropic loss of sea ice on which the bears live — a direct result of climate change, which Palin also dismisses.

In August, Pipeline Palin sued the Fish and Wildlife Service over the polar bear listing. It appears that the person Sen. McCain (R-AZ) plans to put in charge of government reform has pulled a page from the Bush playbook — when faced with findings unfavorable to Big Oil, simply deny the data, silence the scientists, and jam up the courts.

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