The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service told Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell that oil and gas exploration is not allowed on the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell first rejected his plan in May, but in early July, Parnell again proposed a 3-D seismic testing program to search for oil and gas in the biological heart of the refuge. The coastal plain is the home of polar bears and other marine mammals, caribou, grizzly bears, wolves, musk oxen, fish and migratory birds.
Two weeks after Parnell submitted his proposal, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service sent the governor a letter stating that the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act does not allow oil and gas exploration on the coastal plain.
“We applaud the Interior Department for standing firm in its commitment to protect the Arctic Refuge,” said Nicole Whittington-Evans, Alaska regional director for The Wilderness Society. “This shows that the Obama administration recognizes the importance of preserving this incredible public land for future generations of Americans.
“The refuge was established for the conservation of a wild, pristine landscape and its wildlife, as well as to protect Native subsistence uses. Drilling on the coastal plain would cause permanent harm to one of the world’s greatest tracts of public land, as well as harm ancient subsistence and cultural traditions, such as those practiced by the Gwich’in people.”
The governor issued a statement expressing disappointment at the federal decision, and accused the government of relying on “an inaccurate interpretation of ANILCA.”
After two straight rejections, Parnell now has until late August to request a reconsideration of the Interior Department’s decision.