Alaska officials filed notice Tuesday that the state would sue the federal government over a decision to designate a swath of the Arctic as critical habitat for polar bears faced with the effects of climate change.
Republican Gov. Sean Parnell contends the critical habitat designation, which covers 187,000 square miles and was announced by the Obama administration last month, will delay jobs and increase costs -- or even kill -- resource development projects that are important to Alaska.
"Once again, we are faced with federal overreach that threatens our collective prosperity," he said. "We don't intend to let this stand."
The added protection in the Arctic for polar bears does not in itself block economic activity or other development but requires federal officials to consider whether a proposed action would adversely affect the polar bear's habitat and interfere with population recovery.
The Interior Department said the designation will help polar bears to stave off extinction as they face the melting of Arctic sea ice. The animals are listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act.
Parnell argues that the critical habitat designation in the oil-rich Arctic could result in hundreds of millions of dollars in lost economic activity and tax revenue for the state.
Alaska officials and the state's oil and gas industry representatives maintain polar bears do not need the added protection of the ESA listing, which they say will hurt offshore drilling efforts and possibly result in hundreds of millions of dollars in lost economic activity and tax revenue.
Already, there are state laws, international agreements and the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act to protect polar bears, Parnell said Tuesday.
These lands are crucial to the Alaskan economy for many reasons. One of the most important reasons is that there’s oil there that has yet to be tapped. That could bring the state billions, and it would, also, pump money into the overall country's economy, as well. Another perk of opening up this part of Alaska for oil would help us in the battle of defeating our dependence on foreign oil. Of course, as we have seen in the implementation of a moratorium of all new offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, Obama doesn't care about that argument at all.
We must have a way to get to our natural resources without harming the habitat, and there are many safe ways that are available to us, so that we can drill for oil that won’t hurt polar bears, beluga whales, ringed seals, or whatever else the federal government might deem endangered. It is possible to drill for oil and protect the environment at the same time. So, let's get to it.