May 1, 2008
Posted: 02:11 PM ET
A federal judge says enough is enough - no more delay. The Interior Department now has just 16 days to issue a decision on whether to list the polar bear under the Endangered Species Act because of global warming.
The government was supposed to announce that decision by January 9. But the Fish and Wildlife Service said it needed another month to make the complex listing more easily understood. However, that month came and went, and environmental groups sued, leading to yesterday's court ruling.
U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken agreed with the conservation groups - the Center for Biological Diversity, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and Greenpeace - that Interior missed the deadline. And she disagreed with a government request for another delay, ordering a decision be announced by May 15.
Judge Wilken ruled that Interior has been violating the Endangered Species Act for four months by missing the Jan. 9 deadline, and said the government has not offered sufficient justification for that delay, much less further delay. Interior has said it needed until June 30 to finish a legal and policy review of the proposed listing.
Environmentalists say they think the government is delaying the decision to make it easier for oil companies to get offshore oil leases in the Chukchi Sea, prime polar bear habitat.
The Fish and Wildlife Service proposed the ESA listing in December of 2006 because climate change is shrinking polar bear habitat. Some scientists predict summer sea ice in the Arctic will disappear by 2030. A U.S. Geological Survey study estimated that polar bears in Alaska could disappear by 2050.
Diane Hawkins-Cox Senior Producer CNN Sci-Tech
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