AP Gets to Annoy Its Readers

Dina Cappiello, writing for AP, has an article out entitled “Companies Get OK to Annoy Polar Bears.”

Anyone, what “companies” do you supposed Cappiello is writing about?

Good guess – yes, oil companies. The lede:

Less than a month after declaring polar bears a threatened species because of global warming, the Bush administration is giving oil companies permission to annoy and potentially harm them in the pursuit of oil and natural gas.

The Fish and Wildlife Service issued regulations this week providing legal protection to seven oil companies planning to search for oil and gas in the Chukchi Sea off the northwestern coast of Alaska if “small numbers” of polar bears or Pacific walruses are incidentally harmed by their activities over the next five years.

Environmentalists said the new regulations give oil companies a blank check to harass the polar bear.

So if you never read any further you’d gather A) Bush is responsible for giving legal cover to oil companies to harm polar bears, B) this is new (“issued regulations this week”) and C) environmentalists are up in arms over yet another environmentally destructive Bush policy.

Fair summary?

So, how many polar bears might these “new regulations” effect?

About 2,000 of the 25,000 polar bears in the Arctic live in and around the Chukchi Sea, where the government in February auctioned off oil leases to ConocoPhillips Co., Shell Oil Co. and five other companies for $2.6 billion. Over objections from environmentalists and members of Congress, the sale occurred before the bear was classified as threatened in May.

Less than 10%.

And the size of the area to be explored?

Exploring in the Chukchi Sea’s 29.7 million acres will require as many as five drill ships, one or two icebreakers, a barge, a tug and two helicopter flights per day, according to the government. Oil companies will also be making hundred of miles of ice roads and trails along the coastline.

So we have 2,000 bears in an area of 29.7 million acres? A bear every 148,500 acres? Pretty dense bear population, wouldn’t you say? And a drill ship every 5,940,000 acres. Certainly no room for oil exploration.

Oh, and about those regulations. How new are they?

“The oil and gas industry is operating under the kind of rules they have operated under for 15 years has not been a threat to the species,” H. Dale Hall, the Fish and Wildlife Service’s director, told The Associated Press on Friday. “It was the ice melting and the habitat going away that was a threat to the species over everything else.”

Ummm … not so new then, and, in fact, not even formulated under the Bush administration.

And last, but certainly not least, how many polar bears have the oil companies actually harmed under these regulations?

Administration and industry officials said oil companies enjoyed similar status in the Chukchi Sea from 1991 to 1996 and in the Beaufort Sea since 1993 and there was no effect on polar bear populations.

There is no evidence of a polar bear being killed by oil and gas activities in Alaska since 1993, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service. Since 1960, when the hunt for oil and gas began in Alaska, only two fatalities of polar bears have been linked to oil and gas activities in the state, the service said.

Of course you had to read to the final two paragraphs to find that out.

Thank you AP.

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