Salazar limits ESA's application as he keeps polar bear rule

US Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced on May 8 that he will retain a special rule issued in December to protect the polar bear under the Endangered Species Act. He also said that the ESA is not the right mechanism to address global climate change.

Congress granted Salazar authority under the 2009 appropriations act to revoke the rule under ESA Section 4(d) until May 10. He said that if he withdrew it, regulation would resume under an earlier, virtually identical interim rule that the Bush administration put into place when it listed the polar bear as a threatened species last year.

"Revoking the current rule would return us to an interim rule that would offer no more protections for the polar bear and would result in uncertainty and confusion about the management of the species," Salazar told reporters during a teleconference. DOI agencies will closely monitor the current rule's implementation to determine if additional measures are necessary, he added.

He said that he recognizes that melting of the ice cap is the most serious threat to the polar bear's habitat, but added that this apparent consequence of global warming needs to be addressed with a comprehensive policy instead of through the ESA. Rule 4(d) states that incidental impacts on polar bears resulting from greenhouse gas-producing and other activities outside the animals' range will not be prohibited.

"Both President Obama and I are committed to addressing climate change, and to protect the polar bear. We need to have a comprehensive climate change strategy, and are working to get legislation passed in the House and Senate," Salazar said.

Significant protection

Other DOI officials said that the polar bear will continue to have significant protection under the Marine Mammal Protection Act as well as the ESA. The animal's listing as a threatened species under the ESA provides civil and criminal penalties for killing or injuring the bears and prevents federal agencies from taking actions that are likely to jeopardize the species or adversely change its critical habitat, they indicated.

"We will continue to reach out and listen to the public and a wide range of stakeholders as we monitor the rule, and will not hesitate to take additional steps if necessary to protect this iconic species," said Thomas L. Strickland, assistant Interior secretary for fish & wildlife and parks, who also participated in the teleconference.

"We intend to monitor the ongoing degradation of habitat, cub survival and other factors. We'll also monitor potential impacts of activities such as oil and gas that might affect the polar bear's habitat. Should we see significant population impacts, this monitoring will allow us to determine which provisions to implement," added another participant, Rowan Gould, acting director of the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

He said that oil and gas producers in Alaska already were working under the Marine Mammal Protection Act when Salazar's processor, Dirk A. Kempthorne, listed the polar bear as a threatened species under the ESA early last summer. Kempthorne also said at that time that the ESA was not appropriate for addressing global climate change. He subsequently pushed for a rule modifying the requirement for government agencies to consult under the ESA which Salazar and US Transportation Secretary Gary Locke restored on Apr. 29.

Working with producers

"We've long been concerned and have worked with oil and gas producers related to their activities on the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas. We want to continue to monitor and work with the oil and gas industry to preclude any damaging activity out there," Gould said.

He noted that Obama's fiscal 2010 budget request included an increase of $7.4 million for polar bear conservation, $3.2 million of which will be invested through FWS. It also would increase by $1.5 million funding for an endangered species program specifically to reinitiate and begin new inter-agency consultations on oil and gas projects, and to prepare for a range-wide polar bear conservation plan.

The budget also would increase by $1.7 million financial support for FWS's marine mammal program to intensify work with partners to prepare, review and publish population assessments, conservation plans, and incidental take regulations, he said.

"We're going to look at the 4(d) rule to see if there are some refinements are needed to improve it. Congress gave us authority to withdraw the rule, and we decided not to. That does not mean that this is the end of the conversation. We will continue to look at this rule as it's being implemented and see if changes need to be made. This is an ongoing exercise," Strickland said.

Decision endorsed

Oil and gas industry groups applauded Salazar's action. "We welcome it because we, like the secretary, recognize that the [ESA] is not the proper mechanism for controlling our nation's carbon emissions. Instead, we need a comprehensive, integrated energy and climate strategy to address this complex, global challenge," American Petroleum Institute President Jack N. Gerard said.

Congressional Republicans, who previously expressed concern that Salazar might withdraw the interim rule, also approved of his decision. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.), ranking minority member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said that the secretary made the right call and applied a common-sense approach. "The [ESA] is not the proper mechanism for controlling our carbon emissions. The same is also true of the Clean Air Act or any other federal law," he said.

Doc Hastings (R-Wash.), ranking minority member of the House Natural Resources Committee, said that Salazar's action assures that the ESA will not be used to regulate GHG emissions from activities outside the polar bear's range. "This decision will help protect crucial projects needed to stimulate our economy from becoming the target of frivolous lawsuits by environmental groups designed to stop economic development in our country," he said.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, disapproved. "I disagree with the [DOI's] decision to limit the tools we have under the [ESA] to save the polar bear from extinction. Monitoring the situation will not tell us more than we know now: that the polar bear is threatened and we need to act," she said.

Environmental organizations have been divided over whether to use the ESA to address global climate change, Salazar observed during the teleconference. "There may be litigation over this issue. We'll defend our stand," he said.

Contact Nick Snow at

Related Articles

Association presidents want more access in next 5-year OCS plan

02/09/2015 The presidents of three major US oil and gas trade associations urged the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to keep more of the US Outer Contine...

Obama's proposed fiscal 2016 budget recycles oil tax increases

02/09/2015 US President Barack Obama has proposed his federal budget for fiscal 2016 that he said was designed to help a beleaguered middle class take advanta...

Watching Government: EPA's ozone proposal

02/09/2015 Witnesses from the US oil and gas industry and other businesses strongly spoke out on Jan. 29 against the US Environmental Protection Agency's prop...

After Keystone nod, Congress should okay ANWR leasing

02/09/2015 Now that it has passed legislation supporting the Keystone XL pipeline, Congress should approve oil and gas leasing of the Arctic National Wildlife...

White House proposes making ANWR coastal plain wilderness

02/09/2015 The Obama administration said it will propose managing more of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, including its coastal plain, as wilderness.

Chinese regulators approve Sinopec’s plan for grassroots refinery

02/06/2015 China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) has approved Sinopec Beijing Yanshan Petrochemical Co. Ltd., a subsidiary of China Nation...

BOEM schedules public meetings about draft proposed 5-year OCS plan

02/06/2015 The US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will hold the first of 20 public meetings in Washington on Feb. 9 to receive public comments on potential ...

US Senate passes bill approving Keystone XL pipeline project

02/06/2015 The US Senate has passed a bill approving construction of the proposed Keystone XL crude oil pipeline by a 62-36 vote after 3 weeks of debate. Nine...

DOI's 2017-22 draft proposed OCS program includes Mid-Atlantic sale

02/06/2015 The US Department of the Interior released a draft proposed 2017-22 Outer Continental Shelf management program that included 14 potential oil and g...
White Papers

AVEVA’s Digital Asset Approach - Defining a new era of collaboration in capital projects and asset operations

There is constant, intensive change in the capital projects and asset life cycle management. New chall...
Sponsored by

Transforming the Oil and Gas Industry with EPPM

With budgets in the billions, timelines spanning years, and life cycles extending over decades, oil an...
Sponsored by

Asset Decommissioning in Oil & Gas: Transforming Business

Asset intensive organizations like Oil and Gas have their own industry specific challenges when it com...
Sponsored by

Squeezing the Green: How to Cut Petroleum Downstream Costs and Optimize Processing Efficiencies with Enterprise Project Portfolio Management Solutions

As the downstream petroleum industry grapples with change in every sector and at every level, includin...
Sponsored by

7 Steps to Improve Oil & Gas Asset Decommissioning

Global competition and volatile markets are creating a challenging business climate for project based ...
Sponsored by

The impact of aging infrastructure in process manufacturing industries

Process manufacturing companies in the oil and gas, utilities, chemicals and natural resource industri...
Sponsored by

What is System Level Thermo-Fluid Analysis?

This paper will explain some of the fundamentals of System Level Thermo-Fluid Analysis and demonstrate...

Accurate Thermo-Fluid Simulation in Real Time Environments

The crux of any task undertaken in System Level Thermo-Fluid Analysis is striking a balance between ti...
Available Webcasts

Prevention, Detection and Mitigation of pipeline leaks in the modern world

When Thu, Apr 30, 2015

Preventing, detecting and mitigating leaks or commodity releases from pipelines are a top priority for all pipeline companies. This presentation will look at various aspects related to preventing, detecting and mitigating pipeline commodity releases from a generic and conceptual point of view, while at the same time look at the variety of offerings available from Schneider Electric to meet some of the requirements associated with pipeline integrity management. 


On Demand

Global LNG: Adjusting to New Realities

Fri, Mar 20, 2015

Oil & Gas Journal’s March 20, 2015, webcast will look at how global LNG trade will be affected over the next 12-24 months by falling crude oil prices and changing patterns and pressures of demand. Will US LNG production play a role in balancing markets? Or will it add to a growing global oversupply of LNG for markets remote from easier natural gas supply? Will new buyers with marginal credit, smaller requirements, or great need for flexibility begin to look attractive to suppliers? How will high-cost, mega-projects in Australia respond to new construction cost trends?


US Midstream at a Crossroads

Fri, Mar 6, 2015

Oil & Gas Journal’s Mar. 6, 2015, webcast will focus on US midstream companies at an inflection point in their development in response to more than 6 years shale oil and gas production growth. Major infrastructure—gas plants, gathering systems, and takeaway pipelines—have been built. Major fractionation hubs have expanded. Given the radically changed pricing environment since mid-2014, where do processors go from here? What is the fate of large projects caught in mid-development? How to producers and processors cooperate to ensure a sustainable and profitable future? This event will serve to set the discussion table for the annual GPA Convention in San Antonio, Apr. 13-16, 2015.

This event is sponsored by Leidos Engineering.


The Future of US Refining

Fri, Feb 6, 2015

Oil & Gas Journal’s Feb. 6, 2015, webcast will focus on the future of US refining as various forces this year conspire to pull the industry in different directions. Lower oil prices generally reduce feedstock costs, but they have also lowered refiners’ returns, as 2015 begins with refined products priced at lows not seen in years. If lower per-barrel crude prices dampen production of lighter crudes among shale plays, what will happen to refiners’ plans to export more barrels of lighter crudes? And as always, refiners will be affected by government regulations, particularly those that suppress demand, increase costs, or limit access to markets or supply.


Emerson Micro Motion Videos

Careers at TOTAL

Careers at TOTAL - Videos

More than 600 job openings are now online, watch videos and learn more!


Click Here to Watch

Other Oil & Gas Industry Jobs

Search More Job Listings >>
Stay Connected