Big Oil and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge


One of the largest natural reserves in the United States is about to be put up for lease by the Bureau of Land Management. The Trump administration is green-lighting the sale without apology. Now roughly four million acres of land in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge are going to be put up for sale on December 11th. 

Developing this land would put extreme pressure on the already suffering animal population. Entire ecosystems rely on the nourishment provided by the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. This new development will disrupt and displace thousands of animals. Not to mention the impending risk of a severe oil spill. The Federal Bureau of Ocean Management, Regulation, and Enforcement predict there is a forty percent chance of an oil spill in the Chukchi Sea. Both the Chukchi and Beaufort seas border the northern area around the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. As a result, millions of sea birds would be drastically impacted in the event of an oil spill. These two seas are home to ninety percent of the world’s walrus population alone. Knowing this, the Bureau of Land Management is also planning to overturn protections put in place by the late Obama administration to open up an additional twenty-three million acres of land for oil and gas development. 

According to a poll by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, 70% of Americans are against the sale. Yet Joe Balash, the Interior Secretary for Lands and Minerals Management, claims that the sale “will happen in 2019”. It is interesting to note that Balash approved cutting the royalty rate for leases operated by Caelus Energy by five percent in 2014. Balash is already set to help large oil corporations so the idea of preserving this much land is outlandish to him. Regardless of any public backlash, this administration seems to place appeasing the oil and gas companies over the will of its citizens. 

Maybe the $92 million the oil and gas companies spent on lobbying helps their cause. Or perhaps the $125 million spent the year prior is factored into the thought process of current legislators and politicians. 

As citizens, the responsibility falls into our hands to reach out to our representatives and demand that the sale of protected land is annulled. The idea of fighting for land that is thousands of miles away may seem obsolete until your favorite state park is sold off to a cement company. The corporations have a taste for industrialization and their hunger will not be suppressed.  

What you can do: Visit our Resources page to find the contact information for your state representative. Write a letter, send an email, or give their office a call to stand up for the millions of acres that are about to be butchered by big oil. 

  1. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-alaska-drilling/trump-administration-schedules-lease-sale-for-arctic-alaska-lands-idUSKBN1XF2P5
  2. https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/fact-sheets/0001/01/01/ocean-oil-spills
  3. https://climatecommunication.yale.edu/publications/americans-oppose-drilling-arctic-national-wildlife-refuge/
  4. https://www.alaskapublic.org/2019/05/30/interior-arctic-refuge-lease-sale-still-on-track-for-2019/
  5. https://departmentofinfluence.org/person/joseph-joe-balash/
  6. https://www.opensecrets.org/federal-lobbying/industries/summary?id=E01
  7. https://www.opensecrets.org/federal-lobbying/industries/summary?cycle=2018&id=E01

Patrick O’Connor

current events progressive

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