First Amendment topicsAbout the First Amendment
News Story
print this   Print

Conservationists sue for documents on Chukchi Sea oil-lease sale

By The Associated Press

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Conservation groups have sued the federal agency responsible for the upcoming offshore petroleum-lease sale in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska's northwest coast, claiming the government has not disclosed documents that could show harmful effects to polar bears and other marine mammals.

The groups said in their lawsuit filed yesterday that the documents could reveal that the Minerals Management Service's plans for the outer continental shelf sale are ill-advised and possibly illegal.

"Hiding critical documents about the potential harm to polar bears from drilling their habitat is symptomatic of the administration's head-in-the-sand approach to global warming and the melting of the Arctic," said Brendan Cummings, ocean program director of the Center for Biological Diversity.

Christine Huffaker, MMS-Alaska Freedom of Information Act officer, said yesterday that she had not seen the lawsuit and could not comment.

The lease sale is scheduled for Feb. 6 in Anchorage.

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court of New York's Southern District by the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Center for Biological Diversity.

The lease sale will make available nearly 46,000 square miles for petroleum leases. The sale has been condemned by environmental groups that contend industrial activity will harm northern marine mammals. They say the sale in an area nearly the size of Pennsylvania was planned without information as basic as the polar bear and walrus populations.

The MMS is part of the Interior Department, as is the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which is considering listing polar bears as threatened under the Endangered Species Act because of the effect of global warming on Arctic sea ice, the main habitat of the polar bear.

Conservation groups said they asked the MMS for documents pertaining to the lease sale for several months before resorting to a lawsuit.

Besides polar bears, the Chukchi is used by endangered bowhead whales, threatened eider ducks, gray whales, walrus, seals and marine birds.

The groups want the agency to release e-mail communications that they say demonstrate that the MMS may have understated the potential development that might occur as a result of the Chukchi Sea lease sale. The groups claim the agency failed to analyze, for example, liquefied natural gas facilities and tanker traffic in the Chukchi Sea and the Bering Sea to the south.

The groups claim there are no effective methods for cleaning oil spills in broken ice.

"If the true impacts of oil development in the Chukchi Sea were made public and properly analyzed, the area would be protected, not opened up for oil development," said Chuck Clusen of the Natural Resources Defense Council.


Smithsonian accused of watering down climate-change exhibit

Former administrator says museum officials toned down Arctic exhibit for fear of angering Congress, Bush administration. 05.23.07

Federal judge: White House must release global-warming reports

Court agrees with environmentalists, finding administration violated 1990 law when it failed to meet deadlines for producing documents. 08.23.07

Democrats' report: White House interferes with climate science
Bush officials call congressional committee's findings 'rehash and recycled rhetoric'; Republican lawmaker says claims are 'grossly exaggerated.' 12.12.07

Ex-EPA official: Cheney's office urged cuts in climate testimony
Sen. Barbara Boxer said heavy editing of CDC presentation to Congress was part of effort aimed at 'covering up the real dangers of global warming and hiding the facts from the public.' 07.09.08

News summary page
View the latest news stories throughout the First Amendment Center Online.

Last system update: Tuesday, February 9, 2010 | 04:52:58
About this site
About the First Amendment
About the First Amendment Center
How to contribute
First Amendment programs
State of the First Amendment

Religious liberty in public schools
First Reports
Supreme Court
First Amendment publications
First Amendment Center history
Freedom Sings™
First Amendment

Congressional Research Service reports
Guest editorials
FOI material
The First Amendment

Lesson plans
Contact us
Privacy statement
Related links