WASHINGTON – Amid a global public health crisis and with oil prices at extremely low levels, the lame duck Trump administration is launching a “request for nominations,” asking oil companies to identify their preferences over areas of the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for rent for oil drilling.
This is the latest move in the Trump administration’s rushed process to open up one of the country’s most iconic and sacred landscapes to oil drilling.
The case for protecting this sacred land is so clear that five of America’s six big banks – Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo – are among two dozen banks around the world that have announced that they are ‘they would not fund any new oil and gas development in the arctic refuge. And President-elect Biden has made the permanent protection of the Arctic refuge and other areas affected by President Trump’s attack on federal lands and waters a priority on day one.
Indigenous leaders made the following statements:
“The sales of oil and gas concessions on the Arctic refuge demonstrate the Trump administration’s total disregard for the human rights of the Gwich’in and Inupiat and our lifestyles which depend on the health of the coastal plain of the refuge,” said Jody Potts (Han Gwich’in), regional director of the Indigenous Movement. âIn the Arctic, our people are severely affected by a climate crisis due to the extraction of fossil fuels, which we cannot afford to continue. The negative impacts of oil exploitation in these sacred and essential caribou calving grounds will be strongly felt by the Gwich’in and Inupiat villages. As a Gwich’in, I know that my family’s food security, culture, spirituality and lifestyles are at stake. The Gwich’in will not compromise and we will stand up for our way of life for future generations. until this sacred land is permanently protected.
âThe Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is sacred land that not only supports the Gwich’in and IÃ±upiat peoples, but it is one of the last intact ecosystems in the world,â said the director of Sovereign IÃ±upiat for a Living Arctic ( SILA), SiqiÃ±iq Maupin. âGlobal consciousness is shifting towards a just and equitable transition to a sustainable economy, but the United States continues to ignore science and human rights. Indigenous peoples have passed down stories about the climate crisis we are currently facing for generations. Without Indigenous leadership and values ââfor the future, we end up with empty promises, a booming economy, and endangering health and safety for all. The IÃ±upiat people value all life and the story of our IÃ±upiaq nation supporting this type of project goes against all of our principles, ways of life and who we are. SILA stands in solidarity with the Gwich’in for the protection of the calving grounds of the Porcupine caribou.
âThis administration has always ignored our voices and dismissed our concerns. Our food security, our land and our way of life are about to be destroyed. Handing over this very sacred area to the oil companies is a violation of our human rights, âsaid Bernadette Demientieff, executive director of the Gwich’in Steering Committee. âAny business that considers participating in this corrupt process must know that it will have to answer to the Gwich’in people and the millions of Americans who support us. We will continue to protect this place forever. This fight is far from over, and we will do whatever it takes to defend our sacred lands. “
âThe opening of the Trump administration to the sale of oil concessions is devastating to our way of life and to our future,â said members of the Gwich’in Youth Council. âThe identity of the Gwich’in people is linked to land, water and animals. We have lost so much that we cannot afford to lose more. Please stand in solidarity with the Gwich’in Nation and help us prevent the extraction of oil from the calving grounds of the porcupine caribou herd, the sacred place where life begins.
Response from the Center for Biological Diversity:
âTrump is trying to lock up climate chaos and the extinction of polar bears and other endangered arctic species by going out. This is unacceptable, âsaid Kristen Monsell, oceans legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity. âThe Arctic National Wildlife Refuge cannot be replaced, so we cannot let this lame president give it to Big Oil. “
A coalition of Indigenous, human rights and environmental organizations responded as follows:
âThe Trump administration is embarking on a last-minute lease sale in America’s most iconic wilderness after circumventing the environmental review process mandated by the National Environmental Policy Act. The Home Office’s own documents show it has tampered with or ignored scientific data on drilling’s impacts on endangered wildlife, including endangered polar bears that have their lair in the coastal plain; highly overestimated potential rental income; and failed to adequately consult with the indigenous peoples of the GwichÊ¼in Nation of Alaska and Canada who inhabit the Porcupine Caribou herd migration route and depend on the herd for their survival.
âThe Bureau of Land Management should not go ahead with this rushed lease sale. The agency recognized that drilling would release massive amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, but said “there is no climate crisis”. BLM has compromised the integrity of its analysis and the careers of the hard-working scientists and professionals who have dedicated themselves to protecting the exceptional values ââof the Coastal Plain. BLM should remove this flawed review and start over. The agency must genuinely and thoroughly assess all impacts of oil and gas activities before entering into a lease sale.
âThose appointed by the Trump administration have flouted the law at the expense of a wonderful stretch of land that has supported Indigenous peoples for thousands of years and that the vast majority of Americans want to protect. Any business stupid enough to participate in this fictitious process must now know that we are fully committed to challenging these legally flawed actions in court. The will of the American people and the rule of law will prevail. “
This coalition includes: the Alaska Wilderness League, Alaska Wildlife Alliance, Arctic Audubon Society, Audubon Alaska, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, Yukon Chapter, Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Earthjustice, Environment America, Eyak Preservation Council, Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges, Friends of the Earth US, Gwich’in Steering Committee, Gwich’in Youth Council, League of Conservation Voters, National Audubon Society, Native Movement, Natural Resources Defense Council, Northern Alaska Environmental Center, Sierra Club, Sovereign IÃ±upiat for a Living Arctic (SILA), Stand.Earth, The Wilderness Society and Trustees for Alaska
Corey Himrod, Alaska Wilderness League, (202) 544-5205
Nicole Schmitt, Alaska Wildlife Alliance, (907) 917-9453
Pam Miller, Arctic Audubon Society, (907) 441-2407
Rebecca Sentner, Audubon Alaska, (907) 276-7034
Chris Rider, Canadian Parks and Nature Society, Yukon Chapter, (867) 393-8080
Gwen Dobbs, Defenders of Wildlife, (202) 772-0269
Rebecca Bowe, Earthjustice, (415) 217-2093
Rose Mohammadi, Environment America, (650) 526-8889
David Raskin, Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges, (425) 209-9009
Patrick Davis, Friends of the Earth USA, (202) 222-0744
Emily Samsel, League of Conservation Voters, (828) 713-9647
Matt Smelser, National Audubon Society, (202) 516-5593
Anne Hawke, Natural Resources Defense Council, (646) 823-4518
Erica Watson, North Alaska Environmental Center, (907) 452-5093
Gabby Brown, Sierra Club, (914) 261-4626
Tim Woody, The Wilderness Society, (907) 223-2443
Dawnell Smith, Alaska Trustee, (907) 433-2013
Members of the public are encouraged to stand with these communities in opposing oil drilling in the Arctic Refuge. Learn more at: https://www.arcticrefugedefense.org/act/take-action