Court rejects lawsuit over polar bears

December 3, 2009 

NORTH SLOPE -- The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday ruled against an environmental group that had sued the federal government for allowing oil industry activities to occur in areas that polar bears also use. The bears are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

The appeals court upheld a lower-court decision against the Center for Biological Diversity and Pacific Environment. The two environmental groups argued that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service wrongly issued regulations that allow oil industry activity along the Beaufort Sea coast that could accidentally harass or kill polar bears.

The appeals court said the wildlife service found that past interaction between the bears and the oil industry has been minimal. The industry mostly operates on land, far from the ice floes that polar bears prefer, that the industry activity is unlikely to impede bear movement and that no bears had been killed by industrial activity since 1993, the wildlife service concluded, according to the appeals court.

The court ruled the wildlife service did not violate the Marine Mammal Protection Act or the National Environmental Policy Act in issuing the rules.

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