Blast lame-duck oil and gas lease sale and seismic exploration in Arctic Refuge as lease sale bidding begins today
Washington (December 21, 2020) – Today, the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) and U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) began the process of accepting bids for an oil and gas lease sale for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge currently scheduled to take place on January 6, 2021. Oil and gas exploration and seismic testing would threaten endangered polar bears in dens on the Coastal Plain and likely result in significant and long-lasting harm to the unique Arctic Refuge habitat, which is why Representative Jared Huffman (CA-02) and Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) will be introducing legislation in the new year to restore protections to the Arctic Refuge Coastal Plain and ensure that oil activities are never allowed to commence in this iconic wilderness.
“We have been fighting the Trump administration every step of the way in their rushed and malicious attacks on the Arctic Refuge. And we will be just as committed to protecting this treasured place in the new Congress, when we will thankfully have strong leaders like President-Elect Biden and soon-to-be Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland to partner with,” said Rep. Huffman and Senator Markey. “The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is one of the last true wild places left in America, the source of the Gwich’in people’s way of life for generations, and home to rare and threatened wildlife. This last-ditch effort to auction off this pristine land for destruction by whoever is willing to bid on it is not only immoral, but fiscally irresponsible and legally shaky.”
This past week, Senator Markey and Congressman Huffman were joined by 29 Senate and 79 House members in transmitting letters to DOI and BLM asking the agencies to halt efforts to proceed with the current lease sale and to also reject an application for seismic exploration that, if approved, would allow seismic testing to occur in the Arctic Refuge this winter.
Multiples legal challenges have been filed alleging that the Arctic Refuge oil and gas leasing program has been adopted in violation of numerous bedrock environmental laws. What’s more, every major bank in the U.S. and Canada have now joined the more than two dozen banks from around the world that have announced they will not fund any new oil and gas development in the Arctic Refuge. As more banks make clear that they want nothing to do with Arctic drilling — including some of the largest funders of fossil fuels in the world — it should send a strong message to oil companies that Arctic drilling is bad business and they should think twice before pursuing it.
Any company willing to place bids during this lease sale will face the prospect of seeing those bids nullified in the courts, through legislation, or by a President Biden, who has made permanent protection for the Arctic Refuge a top priority. Drilling in the Arctic Refuge is wildly unpopular among the American public and would only be more so in the all too likely event of a disastrous spill. Any company that supports drilling will face enormous risk to its reputation.
The Arctic Refuge is one of our nation’s most majestic public lands, and its coastal plain contains the calving grounds for the Porcupine caribou herd and is home to denning polar bears, musk oxen, wolves, and more than 150 species of migratory birds. The Gwich’in Nation, living in Alaska and Canada and 9,000 strong, make their home on or near the migratory route of the Porcupine caribou herd, and have depended on this herd for their subsistence and culture for thousands of years.