Donald Trump’s administration is putting the final touches on their ambitions to permit oil and gas drilling in a section of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge that has been safeguarded for several decades.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is going to provide leases on almost the whole coastal plain (1.6 million acres), which contains areas where endangered polar bears have dens and where porcupine caribou show up to give birth to their young. Drilling procedures will result in a number of problems for the Indigenous population, as well as the 37 species of land mammals, 8 marine mammals, 42 species of fish, and over 200 migratory bird species found in the Refuge.
The Democratic-controlled House passed legislation to keep the area safe, although with the Senate being primarily Republicans, the bill probably won’t get approved.
Adam Kolton, the Executive Director of the Alaska Wilderness League, said, “To no one’s surprise, the administration chose the most aggressive leasing alternative, not even pretending that this is about restraint or meaningful protection. With an eye on developing the entirety of the fragile coastal plain, the administration has been riding roughshod over science, silencing dissent and shutting out entire Indigenous communities”.
Drilling was prohibited in Alaska’s Arctic due to its fragile ecosystem, until two years ago when changes were made by Congress in a supposedly unassociated tax bill.
Yesterday, BLM released an environmental impact statement and it intends to begin offering leases within the next three months. Oil harvested and burned from the region could contribute an additional 0.7 million to 5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere every year.
According to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, BLM miscalculated the effects that the oil leases will have. Despite clear evidence, BLM proposes in its final statement that global warming is cyclical rather than being caused by human activity.
“Much attention in recent decades has focused on the potential climate change effects of GHGs [greenhouse gasses], especially carbon dioxide (CO2), which has been increasing in concentration in the global atmosphere since the end of the last ice age,” the document said.
Once again, money takes precedence over environmental stability, as scientists from around the world have definitively established that human activities, such as burning fossil fuels, are the main creators of the 1°C rise in temperature that we’ve seen since the start of the industrial revolution.