On the National Research Council Alaska Oil Drilling Impacts Report

The report confirms that serious environmental degradation extends well beyond the area given over to drilling pads, pipelines and roads

03-04-2003 // NWF Media Team

The National Research Council has provided the first comprehensive look at the impacts of more than three decades of oil development in the American Arctic.

The report confirms that serious environmental degradation extends well beyond the area given over to drilling pads, pipelines and roads. It projects a chilling picture of a diminished landscape if the Bush Administration's plans are realized to extend oil drilling along Alaska's entire North Slope, including the Arctic Ocean and the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The environmental damage the report documents would be magnified many times over if the wildlife rich Arctic Refuge is surrendered for a short-term fix of oil.

The National Research Council findings undercut the vaunted claims that new technologies can make oil drilling compatible with an intact, fully functioning natural ecosystem. The stark truth is these technologies are hardly new, extremely expensive, rarely used and may not even be adaptable along the Arctic Refuge's coastal plain. The best scientific evidence available indicates that there isn't even enough water along the coastal plain to build and maintain the seasonal ice roads that drilling advocates say would be vital to minimizing damage to the area's fragile environment. The shortened Arctic winter season, a possible fingerprint of global warming, may also no longer be long enough to conduct exploration and drilling activities at times of the year that would not disrupt denning polar bears.

The report's findings emphasize how crucial it is to conserve a portion of Alaska's wild landscape along the North Slope as a benchmark against which to assess the impact of drilling elsewhere, an option that would be compromised and possibly lost by drilling the Arctic Refuge.

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