Wednesday, September 24, 2008

More on Palin and the Environment

The Minnesota Independent recently covered some aspects of Sarah Palin's environmental record, including her opposition to the listing of polar bears under the Endangered Species Act.

More recently, and to great national derision, the state of Alaska filed a suit in federal court challenging the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s designation of polar bears as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act. Issued this past May, the federal polar bear listing drew on a large body of peer-reviewed scientific data demonstrating that Arctic sea ice coverage during the summer months had declined rapidly in recent years. The data also strongly suggested population declines in the South Beaufort Sea — located off Alaska’s North Slope — and the Western Hudson Bay in Canada. Additional studies have observed declining cub survival rates, as well as declining skull size and overall weight for cubs and adult males, all of which strongly suggest that nutritional and other environmental stresses are affecting the polar bear population....

Governor Palin, as promised, rejected the listing, arguing that it had not relied on “the best scientific and commercial data available.” In a New York Times op-ed piece that appeared in January, Palin deceptively wrote that “state biologists are studying the health of polar bear populations and their habitat” — implying that Alaskan biologists disagreed with the science behind the ESA listing. The state of Alaska, in fact, has not employed a polar bear expert for well over three decades. And as Steiner discovered recently through a federal FOIA request, the state’s marine mammal experts in the Department of Fish and Game actually endorsed the science behind the polar bear ruling as well as with nine US Geological Survey studies that provided additional support to the reigning consensus.
Via Nuthatch, I also learned of this op-ed by a University of Alaska professor along similar lines.
Endangered species. Earlier this year, Palin approved a $2 million state appropriation for a conference on the "economic impacts" of the Endangered Species Act, designed to persuade the public that ESA listings were too costly and unwarranted. Recently she agreed to use the money instead to fund the state's lawsuit against the Bush administration over the polar bear listing -- a likely violation of the state constitutional provisions on appropriation. She opposes additional species listings and other protections in Alaska, where many species are at risk because of climate change and other threats....

Pebble mine. Palin aggressively opposed the "clean water initiative" on the August ballot in Alaska (which then failed), favoring instead foreign mining company desires for fewer government regulations controlling their toxic effluent into salmon streams. She has supported virtually any and all mining proposals that have come her way, even likely the enormous Pebble gold and copper mine proposed in the Bristol Bay watershed. That plan put at risk the largest runs of sockeye salmon in the world, where this summer fishermen caught more than 27 million salmon.
To me, the selection of Palin as a running mate undermines McCain's credibility on environmental issues. Prior to his nomination, he had positioned himself as somewhat more likely to take climate change seriously, and he had used his maverick image to imply that he would take a more moderate course and this and other issues than other members of his party. The selection of Palin suggests that his environmental policy would look fairly similar to that of the current administration.