As a co-conspirator to the movement, much has happened over the past several weeks. Seismic testing has been defeated for now, a major win to celebrate!! Also, more than 1 million estimated comments were made on the latest DEIS related to development in the Refuge, and the vast majority are all on the protection side.
In solidarity with folks across the world who are actively working on this and other intersected issues, take a look at this open letter for more on latest developments and how to support the movement:[We are inviting teachers and scholars—elementary and secondary school teachers, college and university faculty, graduate students, independent scholars and writers, investigative journalists, librarians, editors, museum professionals, and other educators and researchers—from the United States, Canada, and around the world to join us in the campaign to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and uphold Indigenous Rights. This letter with all signatories will be submitted to the Bureau of Land Management on March 13, 2019, the deadline for public comments on the draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Coastal Plain Oil and Gas Leasing Program. To endorse this letter, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, with your name, affiliation, and state/province/country. The letter has so far been published in Common Dreams, Global Research: Center for Research on Globalization (Canada), Counter Currents (India), and YubaNet — and was also referenced in a separate news article in Common Dreams “New Legislation Aims to Avert Arctic Giveway to ‘Corporate Polluters’ Sneaked Into GOP Tax Scam”]
As teachers and scholars from across the United States, Canada, and other parts of the world, we are united in our opposition to oil and gas exploration and drilling in the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. We strongly condemn the draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Coastal Plain Oil and Gas Leasing Program and the rushed process by which the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) prepared the document. Downplaying the dangers of expanding fossil fuel development in the Arctic, and disregarding scientific data and concerns raised by Indigenous peoples, the BLM is also shutting the public out of the process, undermining a core purpose of the National Environmental Policy Act.
Fossil fuel development in the Coastal Plain would devastate an Arctic nursery of global significance. It would violate human rights, jeopardize food security, and threaten the health and safety of Indigenous communities. It would contribute to the escalating crises of climate change and biological annihilation. The Arctic Refuge is an irreplaceable ecological treasure. Its fate should not be decided on an expedited timeline that prioritizes outcome over process to benefit the oil industry and its allies.
Ever since drilling proponents snuck an Arctic Refuge leasing provision into the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the Trump administration has been moving aggressively to rush through the required Environmental Impact Statement. During the scoping phase of the EIS, the BLM held only one public hearing outside of Alaska—in Washington, DC, on a Friday night in mid-June 2018. Still, a large number of people showed up to voice their concerns about the ecological, cultural, and climate impacts of drilling in the Arctic Refuge.
Dismissing the concerns raised by the public and Indigenous peoples and “relying on outdated and incomplete science,” the BLM hastily assembled a draft EIS and released it on December 20, 2018, the day before the longest government shutdown in US history began.
The Neets’ąįį Gwich’in tribal governments of Arctic Village and Venetie, who worked in a government-to-government capacity in the EIS process, denounced the BLM draft. In a press release, the tribes claimed: “The draft goes so far as to boldly declare that oil and gas development in the caribou calving grounds will have no impact at all on the Tribe’s subsistence hunting practices.” Equally important is that the government did not adequately consult the tribes prior to the release of the document. “Today’s release was done with no prior notification to our Tribal Councils, who have met with the BLM for months on a government-to-government basis,” said Native Village of Venetie Tribal Government Executive Director Tonya Garnett. “The total lack of regard to our tribal governments on an issue of such importance really demonstrates how BLM leadership views their trust responsibility to our Tribes.”
The draft EIS set the deadline for public comments to end on February 11, 2019. On December 21, 2018, the Arctic Village and Venetie tribal governments were joined by a coalition of environmental and Indigenous human rights organizations in submitting requests to extend the public comment period—to April 29, 2019—to ensure robust participation by the interested public. On January 14, 2019, in the midst of the government shutdown, the coalition submitted additional requests, reiterating the need for the extension of the public comment period and asking that additional public hearings be held across the nation so that members of the public outside of Alaska are given an opportunity to have their voices heard. Finally, the coalition requested that notice of the hearings be provided at least two weeks prior to the first hearing date to give the public sufficient time to prepare remarks.
When the BLM announced its plans on January 30, 2019, the agency failed to respond to the requests from the coalition and instead offered a much shorter extension until March 13. The BLM also announced only one public hearing outside of Alaska—again, as during the scoping phase, in Washington, DC. But this second round of hearings was structured on an even more compressed timescale to invite even less public input. The BLM stipulated that all public hearings be finished within a much shorter window of time—starting on February 4 and ending on February 13—and that the first hearing would happen just two business days after the announcement, not the two-week notice requested by the coalition. These decisions underscore the Trump administration’s rampant and repeated efforts to stifle public participation in the process.
In Solidarity, I am glad to share my name to this list with Prescott College, the Ice Axe Foundation Impact School, and Sierra Nevada College. You can also check out POW, Sierra Club, and the Alaska Wilderness League pages for more information as they continue to support this movement.
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