Schoof does not go into a lot of detail about these things, which is fine given the “first-look” nature of her article, but one hopes she will soon because each deserves a deeper dive by the national media. For evidence of what such scrutiny would turn up, check out the work of the Anchorage Daily News (whom Schoof credits), where Kizzia and fellow reporter Elizabeth Bluemink, in particular, have covered Palin’s environmental governance in detail over the last two years.
Palin’s name came up occasionally during the fierce debate earlier this year over whether to list polar bears as endangered, not least when she published an op-ed in The New York Times in January expressing her adamant opposition to the idea. It came up again last week, when a group of oil companies joined her effort to sue the Department of the Interior over its decision to protect the bears. But it was the Anchorage paper that provided the most meaningful investigation of Palin’s position. In January, Kizzia broke a story that criticized both the funding and the review process for a peer-reviewed study that Palin was “touting” in order to oppose the polar bear listing. Then, in May, Kizzia uncovered e-mails showing that Alaska’s state biologists “were at odds” with Palin over her opposition to protection, despite the governor’s assertions to the contrary.
Environmentalists, of course, lambasted Palin’s position on polar bears. On the other hand, according to an article by Bluemink in the Anchorage Daily News, they praised her decision last February to return state biologists who regulate fish habitat to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. In one of his “most controversial acts,” former governor Frank Murkowsi had moved them to the Department of Natural Resources.
It is all the more important for journalists to dig into Palin’s somewhat contradictory record on polar bears and fish because it is highly relevant to one of the Bush administration’s most significant “midnight regulations” on the environment. According to a draft of the planned rule change obtained by The Associated Press last week, the administration would like to reduce the independent scientific reviews mandated by the Endangered Species Act in order to “let federal agencies decide for themselves whether highways, dams, mines and other construction projects might harm endangered animals and plants.” It is not the only midnight reg upon which Palin’s record will have bearing.
In her piece for McClatchy, Schoof also cites the governor’s declaration that she would vote against a controversial ballot measure in Alaska that is designed to prohibit metal mines from discharging harmful levels of pollution into salmon streams and drinking water. The measure was aimed at the Pebble Mine, a large copper and gold deposit in southwestern Alaska that sits near the headwaters of some of the world’s most productive Sockeye salmon streams. The measure failed last week, and according to an article in the Anchorage Daily News by Bluemink, “The proponents of Measure 4 said they believe that Gov. Sarah Palin’s recent announcement that she would vote “No” cost them many voters.” Although Palin has not said much more about the Pebble Mine, her position could have lasting relevance; in November the Bush administration will try to finalize another midnight regulation that would “enshrine the coal mining practice of mountaintop removal,” according to The New York Times, and allow mining companies to continue to dump the excess rock and soil into valleys and streams.