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White House takes steps to allow drilling in Alaska Arctic refuge

All the sordid details were broken in a story published by the Washington Post on Friday which cited an August 11 memo from the Interior Department.

In the memo obtained by the Washington Post, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service acting director James W. Kurth instructed the agency’s Alaska regional director to remove the time constraints of the rule that allowed exploratory drilling between Oct. 1, 1984, and May 31, 1986.

Needless to say, the whole thing was done very quietly and without fanfare, and if allowed, this would be the first time in over 30 years that drilling in the refuge has been allowed. Even still, the ultimate decision to allow drilling in the ANWR lies with Congress and seismic studies would be the first thing to be done.

Area 1002 of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge coastal plain  looking south toward the Brooks Rang...

Area 1002 of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge coastal plain, looking south toward the Brooks Range mountains.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

In May Digital Journal reported on Trump’s plans to help balance the federal budget with a proposal to open the coastal plain (Area 1002) of Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling.

Located in Alaska’s northeast corner, the ANWR covers 2,300 square miles (5,957 square kilometers), an area about the size of West Virginia and Connecticut combined. The wealth of oil lying under Alaska’s coastal plain, estimated at about 10.4 billion barrels of oil — compared with 25 billion at the older Prudhoe Bay oil field to the west, has been the subject of a never-ending political debate for years

Note: The area Trump wants to open to drilling is known as  Area 1002.  It is located at the very to...

Note: The area Trump wants to open to drilling is known as “Area 1002.” It is located at the very top of the map.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

And it is fairly obvious that Trump has not taken into consideration the plight of the polar bears – already a threatened species. Polar bears have their dens in the ANWR and this is where they give birth to their young. The region is also a refuge for young caribou and migrating birds. So any move to conduct seismic drilling is likely to be challenged in court by environmentalists,

The Wilderness Society points out that 2-D seismic exploration conducted in the 1980s resulted in significant impacts to tundra vegetation that persisted for decades. As of 2011, some sections of the 1980s seismic trails were still visible. Seismic activity can also contribute to permafrost melt, which in turn leads to thermokarst erosion and water quality impacts.

Female polar bears den during the winter in which they will give birth to young. Other polar bears d...

Female polar bears den during the winter in which they will give birth to young. Other polar bears do not den, but are active year-round.
US Department of the Interior

Kristen Miller, who heads the Alaska Wilderness League says “For 30 years, Congress has voted nearly 50 times on whether or not to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.” She adds, “the Arctic Refuge is one of our nation’s most majestic places, home to the Porcupine caribou herd, musk oxen, wolves, imperiled polar bears, and nearly 200 species of migratory birds that migrate to six continents and all 50 states”

The ANWR is a totally wild place. There are no roads, no campgrounds or even established paths, and Alaskan natives and environmentalists want to keep it that way.

Written By

Karen Graham is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for environmental news. Karen's view of what is happening in our world is colored by her love of history and how the past influences events taking place today. Her belief in man's part in the care of the planet and our environment has led her to focus on the need for action in dealing with climate change. It was said by Geoffrey C. Ward, "Journalism is merely history's first draft." Everyone who writes about what is happening today is indeed, writing a small part of our history.

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