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"This reaches far beyond the scope of polar bears in the Arctic and could put jobs and economic activity across the entire nation at risk."
An 11:30 decision involving the iconic polar bear could determine whether protecting endangered species might also help save the earth from global warming.
The Obama administration is approaching a weekend deadline to decide whether it should allow government agencies to cite the federal Endangered Species Act, which protects the bear, for imposing limits on greenhouse gases from power plants, factories and automobiles even if the pollution occurs thousands of miles from where the polar bear lives.
Fearful that putting the bear under the federal species law might be used to force regulation of carbon dioxide, the Bush administration issued a special rule: No action outside of the bear's Arctic habitat could be considered as endangering its survival.
The limitation, hailed by business groups, prompted lawsuits from environmentalists and action by Congress.
In March, the Democrat-controlled Congress authorized Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to rescind the Bush administration's special rule, thus avoiding complicated and time-consuming regulatory procedures. The deadline for such action is Saturday, 60 days after Congress acted.
Salazar, who was said to be weighing the issue, scheduled a news conference for 11:30 a.m. EDT Friday to discuss it.
Rep. Doc Hastings of Washington, the ranking Republican on the House Natural Resources Committee, urged Salazar to keep the Bush rule in place.
Along with the recent ruling by the Environmental Protection Agency that carbon dioxide is a health hazard, "withdrawing this rule would give the federal government vast new climate change power to regulate any federal or federally permitted activity in our country that emits greenhouse gases," said Hastings. "This reaches far beyond the scope of polar bears in the Arctic and could put jobs and economic activity across the entire nation at risk."
To the dismay of environmentalists, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar refused to rescind a Bush administration rule that says actions that threaten the polar bear's survival cannot be considered when safeguarding the iconic mammal if they occur outside the bear's Arctic home.
The rule was aimed at heading off the possibility that the bear's survival could be cited by opponents of power plants and other facilities that produce carbon dioxide, a leading pollutant blamed for global warming.
Salazar said he did not believe the federal law that protects animals, plants and fish should be used address climate change.
"The Endangered Species Act is not the appropriate tool for us to deal with what is a global issue, and that is the issue of global warming," said Salazar.
Will someone tell Ken that this was a bad career move? And that he needs to update his "Lexicon."
The same story, inadvertently no doubt, belies the 'polar bear crisis' by noting the veritable population of bears in the Arctic.
Of course, not letting facts get in the way of "progress," the AP was certain to add that scientists were worried about "potential" harm, and that the habitat "could be" endangers if the climate warms by some unstated amount over some unknown period in the future.
25,000 of the mammals can be found across the Arctic region from Alaska to Greenland. It has become a symbol of the potential ravages of climate change. Scientists say the bear population has more than doubled since the 1960s, but as many as 15,000 could be lost in the coming decades.
We may have dodged that bullet. But for how long?
It is only a matter of time before this issue returns to Salazar's (or his successor's) plate, or another agency jumps into the fray for another "potential" threat that "could be" the result of a changing climate.