A lawsuit filed on Tuesday, Nov. 17, in U.S. District Court in Anchorage charges that the federal Bureau of Land Management and Interior Department illegally and prematurely authorized the massive Willow oil and gas project in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.
The Alaska Native and environmental entities on whose behalf Trustees of Alaska filed the lawsuit contend that the BLM’s record of decision greenlights the ConocoPhillips Willow proposal despite a lack of information about the project, while acknowledging the project’s harmful impacts to food access, traditional activities, sociocultural systems and the public health of Arctic communities in and around ANWR.
“The true cost of oil and gas extraction can be seen in rising health related issues, respiratory illnesses and rare cancer clusters all over the Arctic Slope,” said Siqiniq Maupin, executive director of Sovereign Inupiat for a Living Arctic. “We have seen severed family connections, once thriving subsistence use areas too toxic to hunt or gather from, and our traditional practices and diet being eradicated because of the fossil fuel industry.”
Bridget Psarianos, staff attorney for Trustees for Alaska, said the Trump administration’s Interior Department “has ushered this destructive project forward without reasonable measures to prevent harmful and deadly outcomes for people and wildlife.”
“This premature authorization of Willow enables ConocoPhillips to drain more oil from the Arctic while putting all the burdens on Arctic communities,” she said. “BLM’s unjust process to reach this decision disrespects local people while ignoring the agency’s legal obligations to serve the public interest, to fully consider environmental impacts, and to engage in an informed and transparent decision-making process. This is another unfortunate example of this administration using a corrupt process that places corporate greed ahead of Alaska’s people and the law.”
In a statement issued by more than a dozen environmental entities on Friday, Nov. 13 Jody Potts, Native Movement regional director, said that the oil and gas lease sales on the Arctic Refuge demonstrate the Trump administration’s complete disregard for the human rights of the Gwitch’in and Inupiat people and their way of life.
The Trump administration hopes to take final steps for the sale of oil drilling leases in ANWR before president-elect Joseph Biden, who opposes drilling in this area, takes office on Jan. 20.