Trump Watch
Caribou graze on the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Interior Moves to Sell Oil Leases in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

The Trump administration is initiating the regulatory process of opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil and natural gas leasing.

Top Interior Department officials recently visited the Kaktovik and Utgiagvik communities in northern Alaska to let them know that the agency will publish in the coming weeks a notice in the Federal Register of its intent to move toward an environmental impact statement on planned leasing, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

Interior Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt relayed similar details at an industry gathering in Anchorage later in the week, where he said, "We expect to move pretty quickly on that project."

Additionally, Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) said at the CERAWeek oil industry conference in Houston that lease sales could start as early as next year, which would beat the 2021 deadline set in last year's Republican tax bill.

"It's my hope, and this is a very aggressive timeline, that we would have the first lease sale ... to be sometime in 2019," Sullivan told the audience.

Despite the majority of Americans opposing ANWR drilling, Congress and President Trump lifted a 40-year drilling ban on the refuge after the GOP tax bill was approved in December.

This "backdoor drilling provision," as environmentalists have dubbed it, was added to the tax reform package to secure the key vote of Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who introduced the measure and has long backed the cause.

Pro-drilling Republicans have targeted the 1002 area on the Prudhoe Bay in Northern Alaska, which has an estimated 12 billion barrels of recoverable crude. However, the targeted coastal plain hosts migratory bird species and endangered wildlife and is considered to be sacred to the indigenous Gwich'in people, who sustain themselves from the caribou that migrate there.

Environmental organizations responded to the latest news with harsh criticism and condemned the administration for failing to meet with the Gwich'in nation.

"Not only is this administration doing the unconscionable by attempting to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, but it is moving forward in the most reckless, irresponsible way," Defenders of Wildlife president and CEO Jamie Rappaport Clark said in a statement. "This headlong rush toward leasing is an egregious sellout to the oil industry that would desecrate the irreplaceable wildlife habitat of the Arctic refuge's coastal plain."

"Drilling and associated industrial activity would put polar bears, caribou, migratory birds and hundreds of other species that live on the coastal plain at incredible risk, while also threatening the livelihood of the native Gwich'in people, whose culture and way of life depends on these resources," she continued. "By now, no one should be fooled by the Alaska delegation's false promises that leasing will follow a robust, lawful public engagement process. Two out of three Americans agree: the Arctic refuge is no place for oil drilling. We will fight this appalling proposal at every turn."

The Sierra Club said the action would give the area over to the oil industry, while ignoring the place's importance to the Gwich'in Nation, create permanent drilling damage to one of the country's last wild places, and cause irreversible climate impacts in a state already warming at twice the rate of the rest of the country.

"We stand with the Gwich'in Nation in defense of this sacred place. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is unique in its wildness and in the connection it offers to the unspoiled natural world, even for those who may never set foot there," Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune said in a statement.

"We have a moral obligation to safeguard the Arctic Refuge from destructive drilling, and we will fight this plan every step of the way. We will not stand idly by as Ryan Zinke's Department of the Interior runs roughshod over human rights and climate justice in their zeal to give away this special place to the dirty fuels industry."

Show Comments ()

Trump Administration Offers 77 Million Acres in Gulf of Mexico to Oil Industry

The Trump administration is holding the biggest offshore oil and gas lease auction in U.S. history Wednesday, offering all 77 million acres of unleased, available federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico.

The sale comes as administration officials seek to rescind drilling safety rules approved after the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster, reduce royalties paid by oil companies, and expand offshore drilling into every ocean in the country.

Keep reading... Show less
Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt. Mitchell Resnick

Pruitt to Restrict Use of Scientific Data in EPA Policymaking

In the coming weeks, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt is expected to announce a proposal that would limit the type of scientific studies and data the agency can use in crafting public health and environmental regulations.

The planned policy shift, first reported by E&E News, would require the EPA to only use scientific findings whose data and methodologies are made public and can be replicated.

Keep reading... Show less
Mity / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

20% of U.S. Diets Responsible for Almost Half of Country’s Food-Related Emissions, Study Finds

If you've been deliberating about going vegetarian, a study published Tuesday in Environmental Letters might give you the final push.

Keep reading... Show less
Sea Shepherd small boat assists the Liberian Coast Guard to chase down the F/V Hai Lung. Sea Shepherd

Notorious Toothfish Poacher Arrested by Liberian Coast Guard, Assisted by Sea Shepherd

A notorious Antarctic and Patagonian toothfish poaching vessel, famous for plundering the Antarctic, was arrested on March 13 in waters belonging to the West African state of Liberia by the Liberian Coast Guard, with assistance from the marine conservation group Sea Shepherd.

The F/V Hai Lung, known to the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) by its previous name "Kily," was transiting through Liberian waters when it was boarded and inspected by a Liberian Coast Guard team working alongside Sea Shepherd crew on board Sea Shepherd's patrol vessel M/Y Sam Simon.

Keep reading... Show less

7 Must-See Films at the 42nd Cleveland International Film Fest

It's that time, again!

EcoWatch is proud to be a media partner of the Cleveland International Film Festival (CIFF), now celebrating its 42nd year. This year, EcoWatch is honored to be sponsoring Anote's Ark. This documentary spotlights Kiribati, a small remote island facing devastating effects due to climate change.

Keep reading... Show less
Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: 'We have approved Bayer's plans to take over Monsanto because the parties' remedies, worth well over €6 billion, meet our competition concerns in full.' EU Commission Twitter

EU Approves Controversial Bayer-Monsanto Merger

The European Union approved Bayer's takeover of Monsanto, a major hurdle in the $66 billion merger that would create the world's largest integrated seed and pesticide conglomerate.

The European Commission said the German chemical-maker's takeover of the St. Louis-based agribusiness giant is "conditional on an extensive remedy package, which addresses the parties' overlaps in seeds, pesticides and digital agriculture."

Keep reading... Show less
Todd Porter & Diane Cu

How Much Daily Activity You Need to Burn off 9 Healthy (But High-Calorie) Foods

By Luke Doyle

A healthy lifestyle is fueled by nutrient-rich foods that give your body the energy it needs. But some of these foods come with high calorie counts and the "healthy" label doesn't mean it's okay to consume unlimited amounts of them.

Keep reading... Show less
Marine debris laden beach in Hawaii. NOAA Marine Debris Program / Flickr

Ocean Plastic Projected to Triple Within Seven Years

If we don't act now, plastic pollution in the world's oceans is projected to increase three-fold within seven years, according to a startling new report.

The Future of the Sea report, released Wednesday for the UK government, found that human beings across the globe produce more than 300 million metric tons of plastic per year. Unfortunately, a lot of that material ends up in our waters, with the total amount of plastic debris in the sea predicted to increase from 50 million metric tons in 2015 to 150 million metric tons by 2025.

Keep reading... Show less


The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!