Environment America acts as a watchdog in Washington, D.C., keeping an eye on any legislation or policy that threatens the special places Americans love. Right now our public lands team is actively engaged with a broad coalition focused on protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
In 2015, President Obama declared the Arctic Refuge “an incredible place, pristine, undisturbed, [supporting] caribou, and polar bears, all manner of marine life, countless species of birds and fish, and for centuries has supported many Alaska native communities,” and for the first time made it the official position of the Department of the Interior to manage the coastal plain as wilderness, and to ask Congress to designate it as such.
In December of 2017, Congress passed and President Trump signed a massive overhaul of our nation’s tax code. Tucked into the bill was a provisionthat requires the Department of the Interior to offer at least two lease sales for oil and gas development in the coastal plain of the Arctic Refuge. This reversed decades of protection. In January 2021, the first lease sale was held and leases to 9 tracts of land were awarded.
On January 20, 2021 President Biden issued a temporary moratorium on all leasing activity in the refuge. The lease-holders still hold the leases but no additional permits will be issued for now.
If allowed to move forward, drilling would be devastating. Heavy seismic equipment would scar the landscape for decades and could crush polar dens before drilling even begins. Drilling itself comes with more equipment and heavy vehicles dragged over the tundra and pipelines crossing the calving ground.