The Government of US President Donald Trump, approved on Monday a plan to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska, to oil exploration and exploitation, a measure that environmental groups described as a attack on the indigenous population and the fauna and flora of the region.
The decision announced by the Department of the Interior could lead to the awarding of concessions before the end of the year across the wildlife refuge, which covers 631,800 hectares and is the habitat of species such as polar bears and caribou.
Although Congress designated the reserve’s coastal strip in Northeast Alaska in 1980 for potential oil exploration, the Arctic Refuge had been off-limits to drilling despite four decades-long efforts by Republicans to open it up to oil. oil companies.
“The establishment of this program is a major milestone,” Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said in an interview. “It is not the end of the leasing process, but it is a very significant milestone,” he added.
The environmental group Sierra Club indicated, in a message, that “when congressional Republicans inserted an addendum to open the Arctic Refuge to drilling as part of a tax law in 2017, they indicated that two leases due to take place by December 2024 would generate $ 1 billion in revenue, a figure that was questionable before the chaos in the oil market this year. “
Bad investment for banks
In the last year, five of America’s six big banks – Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo, Chase, Citi, and Morgan Stanley – have acknowledged that Arctic holdings are a bad investment and joined more than 20 financial institutions from everyone to update their investment policies to exclude drilling financing in that region, including the Arctic Refuge.
“The Trump Administration’s so-called oil exploration review process at the Arctic Refuge has been a shameful deal from the beginning,” said Lena Moffitt, campaign manager for the Sierra Club, who announced that They will challenge the decision in the courts of justice.
At the same time, the Earthjustice group noted that “the Gwich’in Indian people consider the Arctic Refuge coastal plain to be sacred because it serves as a birthplace for porcupines and caribou, animals that Alaska Natives depend on for food and cultural tradition “.
For the end of the year
Earthjustice Deputy Attorney Erik Grafe of the Alaska Regional Office in Anchorage said that decision “ignores laws designed to protect wildlife such as polar bears and caribou, which have used the coastal plain since time immemorial. as a refuge to give birth to their young every year. “
“The Administration’s plan to ruin this place in order to make short-term private oil profits is illegal,” Grafe added in a statement, in which he also promised lawsuits in court. The environmental representative stressed that it is a “sacred, wild and irreplaceable” natural refuge that should not “be sacrificed for an oil development that has no way out and that will only worsen the climate crisis.”
In accordance with the plan announced today, the first concession tender will take place on December 22, 2021, although Bernhardt said it could take place before the end of this year.
A poll conducted in April by George Mason and Yale Universities found that 33% of registered voters in the affected region support oil drilling, and 67% oppose it.