From the Washington Post:
White House officials for more than a year have blocked a rule aimed at protecting endangered North Atlantic right whales by challenging the findings of government scientists, according to documents obtained by the Union of Concerned Scientists.
The documents, which were mailed to the environmental group by an unidentified National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration official, illuminate a struggle that has raged between the White House and NOAA for more than a year. In February 2007, NOAA issued a final rule aimed at slowing ships traversing some East Coast waters to 10 knots or less during parts of the year to protect the right whales, but the White House has blocked the rule from taking effect.
North Atlantic right whales, whose surviving population numbers fewer than 400, are one of the most endangered species on Earth, and scientists have warned that the loss of just one more pregnant female could doom the species. Some shipping companies have opposed the NOAA proposal, saying slowing their vessels will cost the industry money.
In one document, the Council of Economic Advisers questioned “the reliability of analysis in the published literature on which NOAA is basing its position.” The council conducted its own analysis and concluded that “the relationship between [vessel] speed and [whale] injury . . . may not be as strong of a relationship as is suggested in published papers.”
The juxtaposition of economics and whales is quite intriguing. In my own experience, the two haven’t come up in the same conversation since Art Laffer argued eloquently for the need to save the whales (now over twenty years ago).
Of course, I would also be intrigued to see the other memos, e.g.:
A separate document reveals that Cheney’s staff argued “that we have no evidence (i.e., hard data) that lowering the speeds of ‘large ships’ will actually make a difference.” NOAA again fired back, writing that there was “no basis to overturn our previous conclusion that imposing a speed limit on large vessels would be beneficial to whales.”
This document [pdf] is I believe the originally cited NOAA study.
Late addition, 8pm Pacific: Some of the various documents discussed in the article are here.