Monday, September 01, 2008

Palin and the Polar Bears

Kate Sheppard at Grist has a lengthy (and link-laden) summary of Sarah Palin's environmental record. The upshot is that Palin is to the right of McCain on drilling and climate change, and she has the potential to drag the ticket to the right. Or, perhaps her nomination is a signal to conservatives that he is willing to reconsider his more moderate public stances.

I am skeptical of claims that she is a maverick on oil issues. Those claims seem to be based on three particular incidents, in one of which her family's fishing business could have been threatened by oil industry actions. In the other two, she seems to have been simply raising state revenues. Other than those incidents, she seems to be an industry promoter. She even denies anthropogenic climate change while acknowledging that climate change is occurring to protect the industry in the short term.

Her record on wildlife protection is not good, either. One incident that Sheppard mentions concerned the federal listing of polar bears as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The state's wildlife biologists disagreed with one of Palin's public claims about polar bears:

The state's in-house dispute seems to refute later statements by Gov. Sarah Palin that a "comprehensive review" of the federal science by state wildlife officials found no reason to support an endangered-species listing for the northern bears. The governor invoked the state's own scientific work both in a cover letter to the state's official polar bear comments, and in an opinion piece published in the New York Times....

But the state did release, among nondescript cover- e-mails discussing deadlines and the state's scientific credibility, an Oct. 9 e-mail from Robert Small, head of the marine mammals program for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Small named two other marine mammal biologists on staff and said the three of them had reviewed the nine new polar bear studies that the federal government was citing to justify a threatened-species listing for the bears.

"Overall, we believe that the methods and analytical approaches used to examine the currently available information supports the primary conclusions and inferences stated in these 9 reports," Small wrote.
It sounds a bit like another administration that we know well.