Photo: Edwin Butter/Shutterstock

Interior Department Suppresses Study on Polar Bears to Plunder Alaska’s Arctic, Then Caves to Pressure

, director, Center for Science & Democracy | October 7, 2020, 3:51 pm EDT
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We’re in the midst of a global warming crisis, pandemic, a contentious election, and a severe economic downturn. Oil prices are way down due to a market glut and the nation must move toward net zero carbon emissions in order to confront climate change. So why is the Department of the Interior going to extraordinary lengths to open up oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) and plunder an additional 17 million acres in Alaska’s central Arctic? And going so far that they tried to bury one of their own studies on polar bear habitat that indicates potential harm to the very survival of a key population of these protected and iconic animals?

The answer is that the decision to allow drilling skirts the law and sidelines science in order to make a wholly political decision. And that’s wrong. Every administration has an opportunity to work toward their policy objectives. They certainly can, and do, turn their political views into action. But only within the laws of the land. Every administration has to abide by ALL of our laws, not just those parts they agree with. Perhaps there are those political appointees that don’t like the Endangered Species Act or the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Too bad! Your job is still to implement that key statute to prevent species extinctions.

So why suppress a scientific study? Because it contains inconvenient, though important, evidence. And all of our environmental statutes require the use of the best science available, whether one likes the answer or not.  In fact, for taking actions like permitting oil drilling in ANWR another of our key laws, the Administrative Procedures Act, mandates a critically important standard that the Department of the Interior must follow—the decision and subsequent action may not be “arbitrary and capricious.” In other words, it must be carefully analyzed, justified and based on scientific evidence, not solely political views or influence.

After it was widely reported that he was holding up the study, US Geological Survey Director James Reilly, a former astronaut, released the peer reviewed study. His rationale for delaying it was that he wanted to be “satisfied” with the science. News flash for Director Reilly: That is what peer review by subject matter experts does.

The Department of the Interior seems hellbent on pushing this decision through to allow drilling, science be damned. That’s why, when they do, UCS will join in a lawsuit led by the Natural Resources Defense Council and other partners from native tribes to major environmental groups to fight them every step of the way. Stay tuned. This isn’t over.

Edwin Butter/Shutterstock

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  • Sam Crossley Osborne

    Polar bears are very beautiful animals, but sadly they are facing a threat, mostly the climate change, but also oil drilling and trophy hunting is putting these magnificent beasts in danger. By the way, Polar bears are facing extinction by 2100, so oil drilling and trophy hunting should be banned forever so we can protect these beautiful white intelligent bears for conservation.
    If you want to save the Polar bears from the brink of extinction, your choice is to build lots and lots of Polar bear sanctuaries, so these magnificent white animals can breed more and more cubs to get the Polar bear’s population increasing again, although the Polar bear sanctuaries would need very large enclosures to give these intelligent animals to roam around, but the enclosures would need grassland, a few trees, a lake for them to swim in and a shelter for them to rest in the shade, to keep the Polar bears a happy life.

  • Sam Crossley Osborne

    No, don’t you dare drill more oil in the Arctic, that’s where the seals and Polar bears live, also Polar bears are facing extinction by 2100, we don’t want anymore oil drilling happening in the Arctic again, it’s where the Polar bears make their den to reproduce cubs and for the seals to swim under foraging for fish, it put’s them in danger and at risk.
    Stop the oil drilling now!

    See Polar bears are sadly facing extinction.
    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-53474445

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