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For Immediate Release, April 2, 2008

Contact: Kassie Siegel, Center for Biological Diversity,, (951) 961-7972

Senate Hearing Investigates Polar Bear Endangered Species Act Delay
Interior Secretary Kempthorne Refuses to Testify

WASHINGTON, D.C.— The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held an oversight hearing this morning on the Bush administration’s illegal delay of Endangered Species Act protection for the polar bear. By law the administration was required to issue a final decision on whether to protect the polar bear by January 9, 2008. Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne, the administration official charged with making the decision, refused to appear at the hearing.

Center for Biological Diversity climate program director Kassie Siegel testified at the hearing about the polar bear delay and Secretary Kempthorne’s recent decision to auction off millions of acres of critical polar bear habitat in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska to oil companies.

“If the polar bear is to survive as global warming melts the Arctic, we need to protect its critical habitat, not auction it off to oil companies,” said Siegel. “Unfortunately, Secretary Kempthorne seems more interested is generating oil-company profits than in complying with the law and protecting the polar bear.”

At the hearing, Senator John Warner stated on the record that he had spoken with Secretary Kempthorne about the overdue polar bear decision the previous day and had been left with the impression that Kempthorne would issue the decision by “early summer.”

“The polar bear cannot wait much longer,” said Siegel. “As our greenhouse emissions increase and the Arctic sea ice melts, the window of opportunity to save the polar is closing rapidly. Further delay in protecting the polar bear under the Endangered Species Act is inexcusable.”

The webcast of the hearing can be viewed at

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