ACTION ALERT: Lawless Trump to Open Arctic to Offshore Drilling
November 19, 2018
Sabrina Shankman / InsideClimate News & Brandy Doyle / CREDO Action & & Lorraine Chow / EcoWatch
The Trump administration has begun the process to open a large area of federal waters off Alaska to oil and gas drilling -- a plan that is already being challenged in court. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will be accepting public comments about oil drilling in 65 million acres of offshore waters in the Beaufort Sea and hold a lease sale in 2019. In one of his final acts as president, Barack Obama placed these water off limits to drilling. One of Trump's earliest acts was to overturn rule with an executive order.
ACTION ALERT: US Starts Process to Open Arctic
To Offshore Drilling, Despite Federal Lawsuit
Sabrina Shankman / InsideClimate News
WASHINGTON (November 17, 2018) -- The Trump administration has begun the process to open a large area of federal waters off Alaska to oil and gas drilling, taking comments on a plan for drilling that is already being challenged in court.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management announced on Thursday that it is going to start accepting comments from the public about bringing oil drilling to roughly 65 million acres of offshore waters in the Beaufort Sea and plans to hold a lease sale in 2019.
The waters have been in dispute since early in the Trump administration. In one of his final acts as president, Barack Obama had placed them off limits to drilling. And in one of his early acts as president, Donald Trump moved to overturn that with an executive order of his own.
In response, Earthjustice and the Natural Resources Defense Council sued in a federal court in Alaska on behalf of about a dozen environmental organizations. The case is far from over. Last week, a federal judge in Alaska heard oral arguments in the case. She is expected to rule in the next three to five months.
"The proposed lease sale overlaps with the area President Obama withdrew, and can only proceed if President Trump's order attempting to revoke the Obama protection is lawful," said Eric Jorgensen, managing attorney for Earthjustice's Alaska regional office.
BOEM: Court Case Doesn't Block Planning
Obama's drilling ban relied on his powers under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act of 1953 (OCSLA), which allows a president to withdraw certain areas from production. The environmental groups have argued that OCSLA clearly gives presidents the right to permanently withdraw areas from drilling, and that only Congress can add those lands back in.
"It's our contention that President Trump doesn't have the authority to revoke President Obama's protections," said Kristen Monsell, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, which is part of the lawsuit. "They were permanent and were put in place for very, very good reasons."
In its announcement Thursday, BOEM said it intends to prepare an environmental impact statement for a 2019 lease sale in the Beaufort Sea, and it published dates for a series of public meetings to be held in Anchorage and across Alaska's North Slope in December. The comment period will be open for 30 days from the announcement's publication in the Federal Register, expected Friday.
BOEM spokesman John Callahan said the litigation won't affect the timing of the proposed lease program and doesn't have to be resolved before the government starts planning. He said the agency expects to publish drafts of both a lease plan and an environmental impact statement by the end of this year.
Oil Spill Concerns Led to Obama's Decision
Obama's decision to withdraw the Arctic waters from drilling were made in part out of concern for what would happen should an oil spill occur there. The move "reflect[s] the scientific assessment that, even with the high safety standards that both our countries have put in place, the risks of an oil spill in this region are significant and our ability to clean up from a spill in the region's harsh conditions is limited," a White House release said at the time.
"The Arctic is incredibly fragile, and we shouldn't be drilling there," said Monsell. "It's incredibly dangerous, and science tells us that all known resources there must stay in the ground if we're going to avert the most catastrophic impacts of climate change. This announcement does just the opposite."
Last month, the Trump administration gave final approval to Hilcorp to drill for oil from an artificial island it would build in the federal waters along Alaska's North Slope, a project that was leased before the moratorium.
That project has already run into trouble amid rising global temperatures, though, because the island's construction requires a large amount of shore-fast sea ice to carry equipment and gravel to the site, and that ice has failed to form this year as expected.
ACTION ALERT: No Seismic Testing in the Arctic
Brandy Doyle / CREDO Action from Working Assets
No seismic testing in the Arctic Refuge
The petition to SAExploration Chairman Jeff Hastings and its executive leadership team reads:
"Do not conduct seismic testing in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge."
(November 16, 2018) -- Donald Trump and Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke made a catastrophic decision to sell out the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil and gas drilling. Now the first company is lining up to profit.
SAExploration recently applied for a permit to conduct seismic testing for oil in the Arctic Refuge.  Seismic testing is brutal. Ninety thousand pound "thumper trucks" would send shock waves deep into the ground, disturbing polar bear dens and other critical habitat in the Refuge.  And it could start as early as next month.
The big oil giants are used to making headlines, but little-known companies like SAExploration usually fly under the radar -- they are not expecting negative attention from activists. We need to show SAExploration that the company will face massive backlash if it moves forward with seismic testing.
The Arctic Refuge includes more than 19 million acres of protected land in northeastern Alaska, and it is home to polar bears, caribou, moose and hundreds of species of migratory birds. It is sacred land to the Gwich'in people, who live just outside the refuge and subsist on migrating caribou.
Seismic testing is the first step to drilling in the refuge. It is a destructive process that would harm the Arctic tundra's delicate ecosystem for decades -- or even permanently -- even if oil and gas are never found. 
Seismic testing threatens the main calving ground for the Porcupine caribou herd and the cultural future of the indigenous Gwich'in people. SAExploration's heavy machinery may also disturb mother polar bears and their cubs -- or even run them over in their underground dens.
At a time when scientists are urging us to keep oil in the ground to protect our climate, seismic testing in the Arctic would destroy an irreplaceable and sacred place -- all for short-term profit.
SAExploration needs to hear that seismic testing in the Arctic will make them infamous -- for undermining the human rights of the Gwich'in Nation, harming threatened polar bears and destroying our country's last great wilderness. Our friends at the Sierra Club and the Alaska Wilderness League are calling on us to join them in protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.4
Tell SAExploration to pull their application for testing in the Refuge now. We need to stop this climate, environmental and cultural catastrophe now, before it's too late.
ACTION: Tell SAExploration: Do not conduct seismic testing in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Click the link below to sign the petition:
Brandy Doyle is the Campaign Manager for CREDO Action from Working Assets.
1 Lorraine Chow, "Feds Receive First Application to Explore ANWR for Oil," EcoWatch, May 31, 2018.
3 Chris D'Angelo, "The Arctic Refuge Still Bears Scars From Oil Exploration In The 1980s," Huffinton Post, Feb. 9, 2018.
David Thompson, "Take Action," Gwich'in Steering Committee, Sept. 7, 2016.
Feds Receive First Application to Explore ANWR for Oil
Lorraine Chow / EcoWatch
(May. 31, 2018) -- The Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management office in Alaska received a plan to conduct extensive, 3-D seismic testing in search of oil on the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) this winter.
The plan -- submitted by surveying services SAExploration, Inc. and its partners Arctic Slope Regional Corporation and the Kaktovik Inupiat Corporation -- is the first step in opening up Alaska's pristine refuge for oil exploration and drilling, the Washington Post reported.
Last year, Congress controversially lifted a four-decade ban on energy development in ANWR after pro-drilling Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski buried the provision into the GOP tax bill that passed in December. President Trump also claims he was the driving force behind the provision's inclusion.
The companies have requested a permit to survey an area encompassing 2,602 square miles, or the entire "1002 area" of the 1.5-million-acre coastal plain, which has an estimated 12 billion barrels of recoverable crude.
SAExploration said that "this partnership is dedicated to minimizing the effect of our operations on the environment."
However, the Interior Department's Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) said the plan is "not adequate," the Post revealed. FWS said the application showed "a lack of applicable details for proper agency review." The department complained that the companies' permit application did not include any studies about the impacts of the seismic work and equipment on wildlife, the tundra or the aquatic conditions in the area.
"There is no documentation of environmental effects, whether positive or adverse," FWS said. According to the Post, the department's response shows no sign it will approve the request.
The 1002 area is described by the Sierra Club as "the biological heart" of ANWR -- home to polar bears, caribou, migratory birds and other species -- as well as vital lands and wildlife for the subsistence way of life of the Gwich'in Nation.
After reviewing the proposal, the Alaska Wilderness League criticized the companies' plan to conduct 3-D seismic exploration in the ecologically sensitive area:
The scars of the 2-D seismic testing completed on the coastal plain in 1984 and 1985 are still visible 30 years later. Modern seismic exploration, however, is done using a 3-D technique that requires a much denser grid of trails -- the 1984-85 trails on the coastal plain were approximately four miles apart, while the 3-D seismic trails envisioned here would be a mere 660 feet apart.
Seismic activities would involve convoys of 30-ton thumper trucks and bulldozers traveling over extensive areas of fragile tundra. These intrusive surface exploration activities -- typically employed year after year throughout the life of an oil field -- would cause severe and long-lasting damage to the Arctic Refuge.
The organization also noted that the SAExploration seismic plan could threaten polar bears:
The plan makes no mention of Endangered Species Act consultation -- only incidental harassment authorization -- related to polar bears. This despite the Southern Beaufort Sea population's status as threatened, its 40 percent reduction in population size over the first decade of the 2000s, and the increasing presence of mothers and cubs denning along the coastal plain due to loss of sea ice from climate change.
"This is the polar opposite of what was promised by drilling proponents. Instead of a small footprint and a careful process, they want to deploy a small army of industrial vehicles and equipment with a mandate to crisscross every square inch of the Refuge's biological heart," Adam Kolton, executive director at Alaska Wilderness League, said in a statement.
"This scheme will put denning polar bears at risk and leave lasting scars on the fragile tundra and its vegetation, and that's before a single drill rig has been placed or length of pipeline installed."
The group also noted that the seismic plan promises to mitigate conflicts with subsistence users, but only mentions coordination with only the village of Kaktovik, and did not mention coordination with the Gwich'in.
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