Defending America’s Arctic
On behalf of our clients, Earthjustice filed a legal challenge on Aug. 24, 2020, to the Trump administration’s decision to allow oil and gas leasing in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Earthjustice begins its fight to protect the Arctic from oil drilling, working to block leasing in the region’s most sensitive landscapes. (Learn about the Arctic.)
Thanks to Earthjustice litigation, a federal court halts Shell’s massive exploratory drilling plans in waters near the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Read the legal document.
Arctic Ocean’s Chukchi Sea
Earthjustice litigation halts oil and gas drilling activities on millions of acres in the Chukchi Sea.
The Public Speaks
A petition urging President Obama to cement his climate legacy by banning all Arctic Ocean drilling receives almost 80,000 signatures from Earthjustice supporters.
Arctic Ocean’s Chukchi Sea
Earthjustice and our clients win again after the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals orders the government to reconsider the environmental impact of drilling in Chukchi Sea. Read the legal document.
In the meantime, drilling is halted.
The climate case against Arctic drilling continues to build as scientists determine we must keep all Arctic fossil fuels in the ground if we want to avert a climate catastrophe.
Hundreds of people in kayaks and canoes protest the docking of Shell’s drilling rig, Polar Pioneer, in Puget Sound, Washington, as the rig makes its way to the Arctic for drilling.
Arctic Ocean Protected
President Obama permanently protects 98% of the Arctic Ocean from oil drilling after years of advocacy by scientists, environmental leaders, and others.
Withdrawal of Arctic Ocean Ban
President Trump rolls back a number of environmental protections within his first 100 days in office, including Obama’s permanent Arctic drilling ban.
Earthjustice challenges Trump’s reversal on May 3. Read the legal document.
Rule of Law
A U.S. District Court judge, on Mar. 29, strikes down Trump’s attempt to undo the ban, determining that he overstepped his constitutional authority and violated federal law. Read the legal document and explanation of the ruling.
On May 28, the administration appeals the decision. Earthjustice plans to fight the appeal.
Earthjustice represents in this lawsuit: Alaska Wilderness League, Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Greenpeace USA, League of Conservation Voters, Natural Resources Defense Council, Northern Alaska Environmental Center, REDOIL (Resisting Environmental Destruction on Indigenous Lands), Sierra Club, The Wilderness Society. Natural Resources Defense Council is co-counsel.
Administration moves ahead with oil exploration plans
The federal Bureau of Land Management released its final Environmental Impact Statement on Aug. 14, 2020, for ConocoPhillipsʼ proposed Willow Master Development Plan, a sprawling network of oil infrastructure in the Western Arctic.
The agency chose to move ahead with the review process in the midst of the global pandemic, systematically excluding the voices of those who would be most negatively affected by the project, and denying multiple requests from organizations and Tribes for suspension of the most recent comment period.
Three days later, on Aug. 17, the Trump administration released a record of decision finalizing plans for oil leasing in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, opening up the 1.6-million acre coastal plain of the public-lands area to fossil fuel development for the first time. “The administration’s plan to ruin this place for short-term private oil profit is unlawful,” said Eric Jorgensen, managing attorney of Earthjustice's Alaska regional office, “And we will soon see them in court.”
Lawsuit filed to defend the Arctic Refuge
The National Audubon Society, Center for Biological Diversity, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Friends of the Earth, represented by Earthjustice and NRDC, file a federal lawsuit to block drilling in the Refuge.
The lawsuit calls for the court to block the leasing program because its approval ignored federal law, violating the National Environmental Policy Act, Endangered Species Act, National Wildlife Refuge Administration Act, and Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act.
It is one of several legal actions launched in response to the oil and gas drilling plan. The Gwich’in Steering Committee, a voice for indigenous traditional hunting communities, also filed suit to challenge the oil and gas development plan.
Earthjustice’s Alaska Office has locations in Juneau and Anchorage.
Famed for its immense wilderness and abundant wildlife, the state is home to our country's only Arctic region, the Tongass National Forest, and a rich Alaska Native culture that dates back millennia. Since 1978, attorneys in our Alaska regional office have safeguarded public lands, waters and wildlife from destructive oil and gas drilling, mining and logging. Learn more.