Cheney’s Office: (Do Not) Save The Whales

April 30, 2008 11:30 a.m.

The latest contribution to good government from Vice President Dick Cheney: preventing the implementation of rules to protect the endangered right whale.

This comes from a letter House sleuth Henry Waxman (D-CA) sent to the White House today, requesting that the administration quit delaying the rules, which would restrict the speed of ships near American ports. Faster moving ships hit the whales, causing injury or death, scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration say.

But not so, says Cheney’s office and other White House officials, who have delayed approving the NOAA’s submitted rules. One exchange Waxman obtained is typical, he says (pdf):

Another internal document shows that the officials working for the Vice President also raised spurious objections to the science. According to this document, the Vice President’s staff “contends that we have no evidence (i.e., hard data) that lowering the speeds of ‘large ships’ will actually make a difference. NOAA rejected these objections, writing that both a statistical analysis of ship strike records and the peer-reviewed literature justified the final rule. In its response to the objections from the Vice President’s staff, NOAA reported that there is “no basis to overturn our previous conclusion that imposing a speed limit on large vessels would be beneficial to whales.

In his conclusion, Waxman wonders why Cheney’s office seems so invested in the topic:

While I appreciate the value of vigorous scientific debate, I question why White House economic advisors are apparently conducting their own research on right whales and why the Vice President’s staff is challenging the conclusions of the government’s scientific experts. The appearance is that the White House rejects the conclusions of its own scientists and peer-reviewed scientific studies because it does not like the policy implications of the data. This is not how the review process is supposed to work.

In his letter, Waxman requests copies of White House communications about the rule and that the White House allow the rule to go forward.

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