Saving the Polar Bear or Obama’s CO2 Agenda?

by William Yeatman on October 21, 2010

in Blog

This afternoon I attended an informative panel, “Saving the Polar Bear or Obama’s CO2 Agenda?,” on how the Endangered Species Act is easily manipulated by environmentalist lawyers intent on gumming up economic activity. The panel was videotaped, so you can see it for yourself at the Heritage Foundation’s website. If, however, you don’t have an hour, then here are the highlights:

  • Robert Gordon of the Heritage Foundation cited the Iowa Pleistocene snail. Seemingly, the snail is a smashing success story. It was listed as an endangered species in 1978, and after implementing protections, the snail recovered. Indeed, it far-exceeded the criteria first set out to de-list. Nonetheless, the Obama administration upgraded its peril. Why? Because, the Obama administration says, the snail is threatened “in the long term” by global warming! This example supported Mr. Gordon’s conclusion, that the Endangered Species Act is a “tool for those that wish to constrict economic activity.”
  • The Competitive Enterprise Institute’s R.J. Smith questioned which section of the Constitution authorizes the government to favor animals and insects over humans. He joked that the 3rd amendment prohibits the government from forcing Americans to quarter soldiers, yet the Endangered Species Act can force Americans to give quarter to snails.
  • I asked Reed Hopper of the Pacific Legal Foundation to flesh out the regulatory consequences of listing the polar bear as an endangered species due to climate change, and his response was sobering. According to Mr. Hopper, a citizen suit provision of the Endangered Species Act means that anyone could sue anyone for harming the polar bear by emitting greenhouse gases. He said it would be “unprecedented.”

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