Obama admin stands by Bush polar bear rule, won't use ESA to curb emissions

Posted: Feb 19, 2013

Written by

LAURA PETERSEN, Greenwire
Polar bear

The Obama administration will uphold a George W. Bush-era rule for managing polar bears that steers clear of using the Endangered Species Act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

The Fish and Wildlife Service will issue in tomorrow's Federal Register a final special rule for managing the polar bear, which was listed as "threatened" in 2008.

The special rule states that activities outside the bear's range are not subject to ESA "incidental take" prohibitions.

"Because this rule adopts a regulatory scheme that has governed polar bear management for over 30 years, the requirements placed on individuals, local communities, and industry are not substantively changed," the notice says.

The agency is reissuing the special rule after conducting a review ordered by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia last year (E&ENews PM, June 18, 2012).

The order stems from a lawsuit brought by environmental groups that hoped to force federal regulation of greenhouse gas emissions that are contributing to climate change and thus altering polar bear habitat.

While the court agreed with the administration that the Endangered Species Act wasn't appropriate for regulating greenhouse gases, it did require the review to ensure the rulemaking process complied with the National Environmental Policy Act.

Environmentalists expressed disappointment in the Obama administration's decision.

"These amazing animals need the Endangered Species Act's full protection -- not this hollow half-measure that ignores the mortal danger that polar bears are in from greenhouse gas emissions," said Brendan Cummings of the Center for Biological Diversity.



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