Caribou graze on the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, with the Brooks Range as a backdrop.

The battle to protect the Coastal Plain continues

You may have recently read that a federal judge has denied our motion for a preliminary injunction to stop the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) from issuing oil or gas leases on the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. The judge's ruling was narrow, holding that the lease sale doesn’t pose irreparable harm—a legal requirement for a preliminary injunction—since the lease sale doesn’t approve any ground-disturbing activity. The court concluded that before any ground-disturbing activity can be approved, additional environmental analysis will need to be conducted and that we can again seek an injunction to halt those activities. Indeed, we anticipate BLM to issue a rushed permit for seismic exploration on the Coastal Plain any day now, and we’re ready to respond.

Following the court’s decision, last Wednesday the BLM sold oil and gas drilling leases on more than half a million acres of the Arctic Refuge (view a map of the sold leases). The sale was a major flop with not one major oil company participating and just half of the 22 parcels receiving bids. Small companies bid on two parcels, the State of Alaska was the only bidder on the rest. The leases sold for the bare minimum and raised only $7 million for federal coffers. That’s compared to the $1.8 billion that was promised when Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski convinced her Republican colleagues to include the Arctic Refuge oil and gas leasing provision in the “Tax Act” to offset some of the cost of the Trump tax cuts. A second lease sale is planned for a yet-to-be-determined date.

The legal fight is far from over. Our August 2020 lawsuit against the leasing program is moving forward, and we are optimistic it will be successful and the leases will ultimately be ruled invalid.

"We will continue to fight to preserve the Arctic Refuge with greater resolve so that it will remain wild forever," said Fran Mauer, Alaska chapter representative for Wilderness Watch. "If industry and its subservient public officials are allowed to despoil America’s wildest place, nowhere on Earth is safe from their greed.”

A big thank you to Trustees for Alaska for representing our coalition in court.

Help us protect the Arctic Refuge by donating today.

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Photo: Caribou graze on the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge,
with the Brooks Range as a backdrop. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

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