Groups Sue Interior For Hidden Evidence on Chukchi Lease Sale

January 30, 2008

As the Bush administration races to sell drilling rights to Alaska's Chukchi Sea, two conservation groups are suing the Interior Department to get hidden documents they say could show the sale would harm polar bears and other marine mammals.

The groups, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Natural Resources Defense Council, filed suit against Interior's Minerals Management Service under the Freedom of Information Act Jan. 28, 2008, according to the Associated Press. The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court in New York's Southern District.

Their suit claimed Interior has not disclosed documents related to the Feb. 6 lease sale that would show the Department's fast-track drilling plans are a bad idea, and possibly illegal, the AP reported.

Both groups are involved in a suit over Interior's delay of a decision on listing the polar bear under the Endangered Species Act. They accuse Interior of trying to sell Chukchi Sea oil before revealing whether it would hurt polar bears.

"Hiding critical documents about the potential harm to polar bears from drilling their habitat is symptomatic of the administration's head-in-the-sand approach to global warming and the melting of the Arctic," Brendan Cummings, ocean program director of the Center for Biological Diversity, told the AP.

An MMS spokesperson told AP she was uninformed, and thus could not comment.