Another endangered species, another case of White House interference

Dick Cheney's office has spent the last 14 months blocking a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration rule that would protect critically endangered North Atlantic right whales by slowing the speed of large commercial ships in key migratory territories during certain times of the year.

At least three right whales have been killed by commercial vessels during this year-long delay, and two more have been injured by propellers. There are only as estimated 300 to 350 North Atlantic right whales in existence.

According to documents leaked to the Union of Concerned Scientists, Cheney's office and the White House Council of Economic Advisers repeatedly questioned the NOAA's final rule, even though it was fully supported by peer-reviewed science. This "appears to be the latest instance of the White House ignoring scientists and other experts," said Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.).

One organization of shipping companies has fought against the NOAA rule, saying it would "cost money", but another industry organization, the Chamber of Shipping of America, actually supports it. The Washington Post quotes a letter the CSA sent to the White House, saying "the economic impacts associated with the proposed rule (assuming it includes a provision for increased speeds for safety of navigation) are well worth the benefits."

Next steps? Who knows. The White House Office of Management and Budget, which would enact the NOAA rule, has refused to comment. And we all know how good Cheney is at digging in his heels. Let's just hope we don't lose too many more whales before these rules are finally put into place.

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