Friday, December 10, 2010

Conflicting federal interests exposed in Alaska drilling debate

Last month, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service moved to save the polar bears when it designated nearly 200,000 square miles of the Arctic as critical habitat for the animals, deemed threatened by the federal government. Last week, the Interior Department and its Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement decided new oil development could move forward in the Arctic, including smack in the middle of the bears' home turf. That's left players on both sides scratching their heads in what amounts to a classic struggle between development and environmental interests. But the Fish & Wildlife Service designation does introduce a new regulatory element into the government's consideration of an exploration permit that oil company Royal Dutch Shell has said it needs this month in order to be in a position to catch the summer drilling season in the Beaufort Sea. The new wrinkle could mean delays that force the oil company to spend another Arctic drilling season on the beach...more

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