Defending the Arctic Refuge from Oil & Gas Drilling

To the Gwich’in people of northeast Alaska, this is sacred ground. Emissions from oil and gas development would exacerbate the climate crisis and raise global sea levels. Melting permafrost could release large amounts of methane, which is roughly 30 times more potent at trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide.

Case Overview

Generations of Americans have protected the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from development.

The Arctic Refuge, which spans 19 million acres across northeast Alaska, is one of the planet’s last fully intact wild landscapes. The region’s tundra, rivers, and mountains shelter migratory birds from all 50 states and six continents each summer. Grizzlies, wolverines, musk ox, and tens of thousands of caribou also call the Refuge home.

Scientists believe that if we’re to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change, it is essential to keep Arctic fossil fuel reserves in the ground. There currently is no oil and gas development in the Arctic Refuge.

Political leaders have repeatedly determined that drilling in the Refuge is a terrible idea. Yet, in 2017, then-President Trump signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, a bill that used backdoor budgetary tactics to open the Refuge’s coastal plain to oil and gas drilling.

Earthjustice is working with a broad coalition of partners to oppose reckless attempts to hand over the publicly owned wilderness of the Arctic Refuge to the oil and gas industry.

The Arctic Refuge.
The 19 million acres of tundra, rivers and mountains of the Arctic Refuge shelter migratory birds from all 50 states and six continents each summer. To the Gwich'in people of northeast Alaska, this is sacred ground. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

Case Updates

June 3, 2021 In the News: National Geographic

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge just got a reprieve — but it’s not safe yet

Erik Grafe, Attorney, Alaska Office, Earthjustice: “Drilling America’s Arctic refuge is a climate and human rights disaster, and the Biden administration knows the importance of re-establishing leadership on those two critical fronts. Now Congress needs to finish the job.”

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
June 1, 2021 Update

Oil and Gas Leases in the Arctic Refuge Are Suspended. Here’s What Needs to Happen Next.

If we’re going to avoid the worst impact of climate change, we must keep Arctic oil in the ground.

June 1, 2021 Press Release

Indigenous and Conservation Groups Applaud Suspension of Arctic Refuge Leases but Call for Further Action

Biden previously placed a temporary moratorium on oil and gas leasing activities on the Arctic Refuge coastal plain