Archive for the ‘Center of Biological Diversity’ Category

Adorable Pacific Walrus Caught in Melting Ice; Bureaucratic Limbo

In another middle-of-the-road decision that leaves both environmentalists and the oil industry fuming, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has decided to maybe think about (in a little bit) listing the Pacific walrus under the Endangered Species Act.

Photo by Bill Hickey. Some rights reserved.

According to the FWS press release, while the threats to the Pacific walrus are “very real,” and therefore protection is warranted under the Endangered Species Act (16 USC 1531 et seq), that protection is currently “precluded by the need to address other higher priority species.” Instead, FWS added the walrus to the list of “candidate” species as part of their Notice of 12-month petition finding, which is a fancy way of saying that they will consider the walrus’ status yearly, and develop a proposed rule to list the walrus “as our priorities allow.”

The Notice was filed in response to a 2008 petition and subsequent lawsuit from the Center of Biological Diversity, who hoped to compel FWS to recognize the imminent threats to the walrus. Global warming is rapidly melting the sea ice on which the Pacific walrus feeds, rests, and seeks refuge from predators. However, FWS’ decision to postpone listing the walrus was based on a status review of the Pacific walrus (also prompted by the lawsuit), which found that the creatures may be able to use “land-based haulouts” for their needs in the near future, when sea ice is unavailable.

Reuters reports that environmental groups are expected to challenge the decision. As far as the oil industry and other commercial interests are concerned, Pacific walruses and other endangered or potentially-endangered species are just an expensive liability. Just take a look at knowledgemosaic’s Risk Factors page, where a text search for “endangered species” returns almost 800 unique risk factors. Below are some choice excerpts – I guess one person’s precious sea giant is another’s criminal-sanctions-in-waiting.

 

  • Molycorp, Inc. | S-1/A | 2/7/2011

To obtain, maintain and renew certain permits, we may be required to conduct environmental studies and collect and present data to governmental authorities pertaining to the potential impact of our current and future operations upon the environment, including the potential impact on endangered species, and to take steps to avoid or mitigate those impacts.

 

  • Kosmos Energy Ltd. | S-1 | 1/13/2011

In addition, offshore oil and natural gas exploration and production involves various hazards, including human exposure to regulated substances, which include naturally occurring radioactive and other materials. As such, we could be held liable for any and all consequences arising out of human exposure to such substances or for other damage resulting from the release of hazardous substances to the environment, property or to natural resources, or affecting endangered species.

 

  • First Wind Holdings Inc. | S-1/A | 10/27/2010

Violations of environmental and other laws, regulations and permit requirements, including certain violations of laws protecting migratory birds and endangered species, may also result in criminal sanctions or injunctions.

 

  • Gladstone Land Corp | S-11/A | 10/7/2010

If portions of our farmland are deemed to be part of or bordering habitats for such endangered or threatened species that could be disturbed by the agricultural activities of our tenants, it could impair the ability of the land to be used for farming, which in turn could have a material adverse impact on the value of our assets and our results of operations.

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