Quantcast
Popular
A polar bear in Alaska's Beaufort Sea. World Wildlife Fund

Oil Exploration in Arctic Ocean Approved by Trump Administration as ANWR Drilling Bill Moves Forward

The fight against new Arctic drilling took a major setback on Tuesday. On the same day that the Senate Budget Committee passed a bill allowing oil and natural gas drilling in Alaska's pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the Trump administration granted oil company Eni's request to explore for oil in nearby Alaska waters.

The Department of Interior's Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) issued the permit to Eni yesterday, allowing the oil giant to drill exploratory wells in the Beaufort Sea as early as next month.


“Achieving American energy dominance moved one step closer today with the approval of Arctic exploration operations on the Outer Continental Shelf for the first time in more than two years," the department boasted.

In April, President Donald Trump signed an executive order that initiated the process of rolling back former President Obama's 2016 ban on any new off shore oil and gas leasing in the Arctic Ocean.

Exploratory drilling will take place on Spy Island, a man-made artificial island approximately three miles offshore of Oliktok Point. Eni, which has sat on its leases in the Beaufort Sea for more than a decade, says the new development could lead to the creation of 100-150 jobs in the region and new production of 20,000 barrels of oil per day.

"BSEE Alaska Region staff conducted a thorough and complete review of Eni's well design, testing procedures and safety protocol," said Mark Fesmire, BSEE Alaska Region director. "Exploration must be conducted safely, and responsibly in relation to the Arctic environment and we will continue to engage Eni as they move forward with drilling its exploratory well."

But environmental groups fiercely oppose oil and gas development in the area over risks of a potential spill and say that drilling in the Arctic will exacerbate global warming.

The Center of Biological Diversity said in a statement that the area is home to many marine mammals, including bowhead whales, polar bears and ringed seals and birds from all over the world, including spectacled eiders and longtailed ducks. They also noted that the Trump administration provided the public only 21 days to review and comment on the exploration plan and only 10 days to comment on scoping for an environmental assessment under the National Environmental Policy Act.

“Approving this Arctic drilling plan at the 11th hour makes a dangerous project even riskier," said Kristen Monsell, an attorney with the organization. “An oil spill here would do incredible damage, and it'd be impossible to clean up. The Trump administration clearly cares only about appeasing oil companies, no matter its legal obligations or the threats to polar bears or our planet."

The Center for Biological Diversity and other groups filed a lawsuit challenging Trump's April executive order. The lawsuit is pending in federal court in Alaska.

Meanwhile, the Republican-led push to allow drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) moved forward on Tuesday. The bill, which is combined with Senate Republicans' tax reform overhaul, was approved by the Senate Budget Committee in a party-line vote of 12-11. The measure is now headed to the Senate floor.

The legislation, introduced by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), could advance with only 51 votes in the Senate instead of the usual 60 as it complies under Congress' budget resolution instructions for 2018.

Democratic lawmakers and environmental groups have criticized the GOP for sneaking the "backdoor drilling provision" through the budget process.

"It's really not gotten the attention that it should," Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), a member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, told POLITICO about the ANWR provision. "It's not just the budget discussion. It's about everything else that's going on, the flurry of all sorts of other news."

Jamie Rappaport Clark, president and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife, also issued the following statement: "A vote for the Senate tax reform bill is a vote supporting the destruction of America's iconic Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Sen. Murkowski's toxic drilling provision forsakes the conservation values that helped shape our nation and threatens polar bears, muskoxen, caribou and hundreds of species of migratory birds from all fifty states. Congress must uphold America's conservation legacy by rejecting any bill that includes oil drilling in the Arctic refuge."

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Health
Pexels

5 Ingredients for Health: Starting with Food

On Food Talk with Dani Nierenberg, Dr. Robert Graham—board-certified physician and founder of FRESHMed NYC—combines mainstream medical practices with therapies inspired by ancient wisdom: an integrative model of medicine. "My dad was a biochemist, so I grew up in this integrative model. One of the things that really stood out is my mom was distrustful about the conventional Western model. She still thinks she's the only doctor in the house, because food is such a powerful medicine, especially from her culture," said Graham.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Malte Mueller / Getty Images

When Profit Drives Us, Community Suffers

By David Korten

As I was reading the current series of YES! articles on the mental health crisis, I received an email from Darcia Narvaez, professor of psychology at University of Notre Dame. She was sending me articles being prepared for an anthology she is co-editing with the working title Sustainable Vision.The articles present lessons from indigenous culture that underscore why community is the solution to so much of what currently ails humanity.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
The Revelator

Interactive Map: Air Pollution in 2100

By Dipika Kadaba

Having a little trouble breathing lately? That's no surprise. Air pollution is already bad in many parts of the country, and climate change is only going to make it worse. Even though many industries are reducing their emissions, a warming climate could actually offset these reductions by intensifying the rates of chemical reactions and accumulation of pollutants in the environment.

Keep reading... Show less
Health
ddukang / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Is Apple Cider Vinegar Good for You? A Doctor Weighs In

By Gabriel Neal

When my brother and I were kids back in the '80s, we loved going to Long John Silver's.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Animals

Dumpster Debacle Distracts From Serious Spike in Whale Deaths

This week, a video of a failed attempt to put a dead, 4,000-pound whale into a tiny dumpster made the rounds on the internet, garnering chuckles and comparisons to Peter Griffin forklifting and impaling a beached sperm whale on Family Guy.

The juvenile minke whale washed up on Jenness Beach in Rye, New Hampshire on Monday morning, NBC 10 Boston reported. It was found with entanglement wounds, so researchers with the Seacoast Science Center and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) wanted to move the carcass from the beach to a lab for a necropsy to study its death.

Keep reading... Show less
Adventure
Muir Woods, which costs $10 for entry, will have free entry on Sept. 22. m01229 / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0

Visit Any National Park for Free This Saturday to Celebrate 25th National Public Lands Day

If you're stuck for plans this weekend, we suggest escaping your city or town for the great outdoors.

This Saturday marks the 25th National Public Lands Day, organized by the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF).

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Climate
A glacier flows towards East Antarctica. NASA Goddard Space Flight Center / CC BY 2.0

Temperatures Possible This Century Could Melt Parts of East Antarctic Ice Sheet, Raise Sea Levels 10+ Feet

A section of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet that contains three to four meters (approximately 10 to 13 feet) of potential sea level rise could melt if temperatures rise to just two degrees above pre-industrial levels, a study published in Nature Wednesday found.

Researchers at Imperial College London, the University of Queensland, and other institutions in New Zealand, Japan and Spain looked at marine sediments to assess the behavior of the Wilkes Subglacial Basin during warmer periods of the Pleistocene and found evidence of melting when temperatures in Antarctica were at least two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels for periods of 2,500 years or more.

Keep reading... Show less
Energy
Oil well in North Dakota. Tim Evanson / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Pipeline Leaks 63,840 Gallons of Produced Water in North Dakota

A pipeline released 63,840 gallons (1,520 barrels) of produced water that contaminated rangeland in Dunn County, North Dakota, the Bismarck Tribune reported, citing officials with the North Dakota Department of Health.

Produced water is a byproduct of oil and gas extraction, and can contain drilling chemicals if fracking was used.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

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