|"Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast"
|"The liberal soul shall be made fat, and he that watereth, shall be watered also himself."
-- Proverbs 11:25
Two conservation groups filed a lawsuit on Tuesday challenging the Bush administration's decision to let oil companies unintentionally harass or harm polar bears and walruses off the northwestern Alaska coast.
The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Anchorage claims that federal officials violated laws designed to protect the animals and their sensitive habitat in the Arctic waters of the Chukchi Sea.
"These regulations set the parameters for how oil exploration will be done in the next five years," said Brendan Cummings, oceans program director at the Center for Biological Diversity, which filed the suit along with Pacific Environment. "The Chukchi Sea is critical habitat for those animals. For them to survive in the face of global warming, we simply cannot allow oil development there."
Last month, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided to grant legal protection to seven oil companies in the Chukchi over the next five years should they accidentally harm "small numbers" of polar bears or Pacific walruses while drilling or during other exploratory activities. The agency is named as a defendant in the suit, along with Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne.
Fish and Wildlife Service officials said oil and gas exploration will have a negligible effect on the bear and walrus populations. Global warming is most likely to cause the animals' numbers to dwindle, the agency said.