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For Immediate Release, April 13, 2009

Contact: Rebecca Noblin, (907) 274-1110

Polar Bear to Deliver 50,000 Petitions to Interior Secretary Salazar in Anchorage Requesting He Rescind Bush Regulations That Weaken the Endangered Species Act

Anchorage, Alaska— At tomorrow’s hearing to gain public input on development of Alaska’s outer continental shelf, a polar bear will be on hand to deliver 50,000 petitions to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar requesting that he rescind two rules passed in the final days of the Bush administration that weaken the Endangered Species Act. One of these rules exempts thousands of federal activities, including those that generate greenhouse gases, from review under the Endangered Species Act, and the other sharply limits protections for the threatened polar bear.

“These regulations are a disaster for the nation’s endangered species,” said Rebecca Noblin, staff attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity. “This is a major test for Secretary Salazar — we need to know whether he will live up to President Obama’s commitment to support a strong Endangered Species Act.”

Congress passed legislation on March 10 giving Secretary Salazar power to rescind both rules within 60 days, by May 9. Despite the fact that more than half of those 60 days have passed, Secretary Salazar has given no indication of whether he will use the power granted by Congress.

On April 3, 44 members of the House of Representatives, including seven committee chairmen and several other high-ranking leaders, sent a letter to secretaries Salazar and Locke urging them to use the authority to rescind the rules. 

Many of the species that call Alaska’s outer continental shelf home — including threatened polar bears, Pacific walruses, and ice seals — face dire threats from climate change. Protecting these species from offshore oil development and climate change will require the full protections of the Endangered Species Act. Under the Bush administration rules, the impacts of Outer Continental Shelf drilling on climate and these species would be exempt from consideration under the Endangered Species Act. 

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