For Immediate Release,
June 25, 2020
ANCHORAGE, Alaska— The Trump administration announced release of a final plan for Alaska’s Western Arctic region today that would expand oil and gas leasing into protected wildlife habitat. The plan would turn over about 18.7 million acres of public lands in the largest roadless area in the United States to the oil industry.
Burning the recoverable oil estimated in the area could result in more than 1.1 billion tons of carbon dioxide pollution, deepening the climate crisis, according to an analysis by the Center for Biological Diversity. That’s the equivalent of the emissions from nearly 300 coal plants operating for a year. The proposal would harm imperiled species, including polar bears and ice seals, already struggling to survive in a warming world.
“Turning the oil industry loose on America’s biggest undeveloped frontier would be a disaster for our climate and Alaska’s wildlife,” said Kristen Monsell, a senior attorney at the Center. “Drilling oil and gas wells in the Western Arctic would do immense harm to Arctic wildlife already under siege from the climate crisis. We can’t let that happen.”
Today’s final “integrated activity plan” from the Bureau of Land Management opens up sections of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska protected from oil leasing by the Obama administration. The final plan adopts a preferred alternative that was not included in the proposed plan and turns over even more land than the 18.3 million acres under that proposed plan.
The plan would offer oil companies the area around Teshekpuk Lake, which has been protected habitat for caribou herds, polar bears, millions of migratory birds and subsistence hunting for Alaska Natives. The protected habitat area around Teshekpuk Lake is adjacent to the Willow oil-project site that ConocoPhillips is currently seeking approval from the BLM to develop.
The Trump administration has already held large lease sales in areas of the reserve currently open to oil leasing. The Center and others groups filed a lawsuit in 2018 challenging those sales. The case is awaiting a decision from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
“Opening more of the Arctic to drilling and fracking is incredibly reckless,” Monsell said. “All Arctic oil should stay in the ground.”