Trump Announces Plans To Drill In Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
The Trump administration has announced plans to allow oil and gas drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for the first time.
Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said on Monday, August 17, his department is opening 1,563,500 acres on the coast of the refuge available for oil and gas leasing or exploratory activity.
Bernhardt said the announcement ‘marks a new chapter in American energy independence’ and predicted it could ‘create thousands of new jobs’. However, environmentalists have warned drilling would massively disrupt the wilderness and tribes in the area, as well as exacerbate the climate crisis.
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is the largest in the US, located in northeastern Alaska. It is managed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service to protect wildlife in its natural habitat, as well as maintaining resources needed for local residents and tribes that rely on it.
Drilling in these areas of the Alaskan arctic has long been controversial, with future oil and gas activities resulting from the decision expected to impact greenhouse gas emissions, water quality, wildlife population and migration patterns, according to the environmental impact statement.
Bernhardt said the drilling could be conducted in an environmentally sound manner, and that Congress has set details into law that will help them withstand challenges from environmentalists.
The Interior Secretary said, as per The Wall Street Journal:
Congress gave us a very clear directive here, and we have to carry out that directive consistent with the directive that they gave, and consistent with the procedural statutes.
I have a remarkable degree of confidence that this can be done in a way that is responsible, sustainable and environmentally benign.
The announcement came just before Joe Biden is set to accept the Democratic presidential nomination this week, with Biden having previously called for a ban on new oil and gas permits on public lands.
When asked by CNN whether he felt pressured because of a potential Biden administration being less interested in moving forward with such drilling, Bernhardt said he was ‘not really driven by the political dynamics’.
‘Congress has mandated these lease sales so they have to go forward in some regard,’ Bernhardt said, referencing the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act signed into law in 2017, in which Congress mandated the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge be opened to oil and gas activity. ‘They can’t simply unduly delay,’ he added.
Bernhardt added that even if a new administration wanted to reverse this decision they would struggle because they would be bound by the 2017 law.
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CreditsUS Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management and 2 others
US Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management
The Wall Street Journal