Quantcast

Interior Moves to Sell Oil Leases in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

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

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."

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Protestors and police stand on ether side of railway tracks. dpa / picture-alliance

Police have cleared 250 climate activists who stayed overnight at the Garzweiler brown coal mine in western Germany, officials said Sunday.

Read More Show Less
Cecilie_Arcurs / E+ / Getty Images

By Megan Jones and Jennifer Solomon

The #MeToo movement has caused profound shake-ups at organizations across the U.S. in the last two years. So far, however, it has left many unresolved questions about how workplaces can be more inclusive and equitable for women and other diverse groups.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Cigarette butts are the most-littered item found at beach clean ups. John R. Platt

By Tara Lohan

By now it's no secret that plastic waste in our oceans is a global epidemic. When some of it washes ashore — plastic bottles, plastic bags, food wrappers — we get a stark reminder. And lately one part of this problem has been most glaring to volunteers who comb beaches picking up trash: cigarette butts.

Read More Show Less

Andrea Rodgers, second from the right, takes notes during a hearing in the Juliana v. U.S. case before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Portland, Oregon on June 4. Colleague Elizabeth Brown sits to her left, while colleague Julia Olson sits on her right, with co-council Philip Gregory on Julia's right. Robin Loznak / Our Children's Trust

By Fran Korten

On June 4, Andrea Rodgers was in the front row of attorneys sitting before a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court. The court session, held in Portland, Oregon, was to determine whether the climate change lawsuit (Juliana v. United States) brought by 21 young plaintiffs should be dismissed, as requested by the U.S. government, or go on to trial.

Read More Show Less
Seventy Extinction Rebellion protesters were arrested outside The New York Times building Saturday. SCOOTERCASTER / YouTube screenshot

Seventy Extinction Rebellion protesters were arrested outside The New York Times building Saturday as they demanded the paper improve its coverage of the climate crisis, Reuters reported.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Explosions and a blaze at the Philadelphia Energy Solutions Refining Complex on June 21. VOA News / YouTube screenshot

A fire broke out at a Philadelphia oil refinery Friday morning, starting with an explosion so massive it was felt as far away as South Jersey and Delaware County, Pennsylvania, CNN reported.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Alina Petre, MS, RD (CA)

Leeks belong to the same family as onions, shallots, scallions, chives and garlic.

Read More Show Less
Asian elephants in Bandipur National Park, India. Mike Prince / CC BY 2.0

By John R. Platt

Some of the tiniest creatures in Myanmar benefit from living near the largest species in the area.

Read More Show Less