Today, officials from the U.S. Department of Interior visiting Alaska announced their intent to begin the regulatory process for offering leases in the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. This signals a first step toward dirty and dangerous oil and gas drilling in the Refuge, which would irreversibly harm a biologically rich and wild area owned by all Americans and undermine the urgent need to address climate change. The Refuge provides critical habitat for polar bears, caribou, migratory birds and other iconic species of the Alaskan Arctic, and it is sacred to the Gwich’in community.
The following is a statement from Earthjustice attorney Erik Grafe, based in Anchorage:
“Today’s announcement that Interior intends to start the process of oil leasing in the Refuge sets us on a dangerous course and disregards scientists’ warnings that we must limit fossil fuel extraction, particularly in the Arctic, if we hope to avoid the worst consequences of global climate change. This Administration is barreling ahead with a fossil fuel extraction plan in the Arctic Refuge, despite the environmental and human rights implications of industrializing the wild birthing grounds of caribou upon which indigenous Gwich’in have relied for millennia. Earthjustice stands prepared to uphold bedrock environmental laws that protect the Refuge’s values and mount a strong defense of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.”