• State of Alaska Challenges Listing of Polar Bear Under Endangered Species Act
  • April 28, 2009 | Author: Kristin L. Parker
  • Law Firm: Jones Day - Chicago Office
  • Last year's much-publicized listing of the polar bear as "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act ("ESA") has sparked a new wave of litigation over greenhouse gas emissions. Specifically, in late 2008, after the United States Fish and Wildlife Service listed the polar bear as a threatened species under the ESA due to threats to its Arctic habitat, including those from global climate change, the State of Alaska filed a lawsuit challenging the polar bear's listing under both the ESA and the Administrative Procedures Act. State of Alaska v. Kempthorne (D.D.C. No. 1:08-cv-01352 EGS).

    Alaska asserts that polar bear populations are stable, that melting sea ice does not pose an imminent threat to the survival of the species, and that polar bears have historically survived warming periods. Alaska further claims that listing the polar bear as a threatened species will have a "significant adverse impact" on various industries, including energy production, within the state.

    Numerous industry groups, including the American Petroleum Institute, the National Association of Manufacturers, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the National Mining Association, have joined Alaska in trying to reverse the polar bear's listing as a threatened species. While this litigation is in its initial stages, it seems certain that litigation of this kind will continue to be directed against various federal actions that are designed to address climate change, at least until a comprehensive federal, if not international, approach is adopted.