The groups reported, however, the court also held that DOI had broad discretion when crafting species-specific rules and therefore did not substantively violate the ESA in adopting the exemption for the polar bear. A similar interim rule issued simultaneously with listing of the polar bear as threatened in May 2008 remains in place until Interior complies with NEPA by completing a new environmental impact statement and issues a new final rule. The polar bear was the first species added to the endangered species list solely because of threats to the species from global warming. The groups said the ruling does not limit the applicability of the ESA to greenhouse gas emissions affecting species listed as endangered under the Act or to other threatened species for which Interior has not issued a specific exemption.
Brendan Cummings at CBD commented, "Today's decision squarely places the fate of the polar bear back in the hands of the Obama administration. Rather than continue to defend an ill-conceived Bush-era rule, the Obama administration should take this opportunity to carefully craft a new rule that meaningfully addresses greenhouse gas emissions, the primary threat to the polar bear." Andrew Wetzler, director of the Lands and Wildlife program for NRDC said, "Now that the Department of the Interior must weigh in for the first time with full environmental analysis, the Obama administration is going to own this issue. It affords the president an opportunity to show he is serious about dealing with climate change and protecting wildlife. The court's ruling means the Obama administration won't be able to hide behind Bush-era policies on an issue the public clearly cares about."
John Hocevar, oceans director at Greenpeace said, "The court's decision is bittersweet -- it acknowledges the devastating impact of global warming on polar bears and requires further review of the 4(d) rule, but stops short of fully disallowing an exemption for greenhouse gases. We will redouble our efforts to protect the polar bear's Arctic Ocean habitat, and continue to press the Obama administration to use all available tools, including the Endangered Species Act, to address greenhouse emissions and the climate crisis."