Senator John Kerry yesterday introduced legislation to prohibit any oil and gas exploration activities in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas - known as the "Polar Bear Seas" - until the full impacts of exploration on polar bear populations are fully understood. Kerry's bill also requires that no drilling activity proceed until the polar bear is listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act and critical habitat is designated. The bill also stipulates strong protections to address any potential oil spills that may occur in association with drilling activity.
"Polar bears are vanishing rapidly because of threats from global climate change and drilling," said Kerry. "Before the government sells even more of their habitat off to big corporate interests, we need to know the full impact of further drilling, and we need to know whether this would push us past the tipping point and devastate the polar bear habitat."
On January 16th, 2008, Kerry and ten other Senators sent a letter to Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne, asking him to delay a 30 million-acre oil and gas lease sale in Alaska's Chukchi Sea, planned for February 6th, 2008. Kerry was joined by ten other Senators in recommending that the lease sale be delayed until the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service announces its final decision regarding the listing of the polar bear as a threatened species.
Polar bears are in increasing danger, due to the large-scale melting of the sea ice that makes up the polar bear habitat. This dramatic melting is caused by climate change.