Oil Drilling in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge Imperils Wildlife, Won’t Solve Economic or Energy Challenges

WASHINGTON, D.C. (October 19, 2017) — The U.S. Senate is set to vote on a budget resolution that would revoke the 35-year-old Congressional prohibition on oil and gas drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The National Wildlife Federation is urging senators to support an amendment stripping out the provision.

Located in the northeast corner of Alaska, the 19.6-million-acre Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is home to more than 200 bird species, which migrate to the refuge to breed in the summer. As many as 300,000 snow geese visit the coastal plain each fall to feed on the tundra. Other wildlife travelers on the Arctic Refuge include the 130,000-member porcupine caribou herd. Each spring, the herd migrates more than 1,400 miles across Canada and Alaska to calve in the refuge's coastal plain.

“For decades, members of Congress from both sides of the aisle have come together to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from oil and gas drilling, and we urge that bipartisan conservation tradition to continue today. For the caribou, bear, musk ox, and waterfowl that call this pristine wilderness home, and indigenous communities that depend upon it, our vigilant efforts to protect this special place are absolutely essential,” said Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “Alaska now suffers from the highest unemployment rate in the country and Congress should absolutely help expand economic opportunity, but risking the state’s unrivaled natural resources by making its economy even more dependent on an already-shrinking fossil fuel sector is not the answer.”

A 2008 assessment by the U.S. Energy Information Administration found oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge wouldn’t lower oil prices because, “Assuming that world oil markets continue to work as they do today, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) could neutralize any potential price impact of ANWR oil production by reducing its oil exports by an equal amount.”

Alaska has suffered several high-profile oil disasters over the years:

  • The 1989 Exxon Valdez oil tanker rupture spilled 11 million gallons of oil in Prince William Sound, devastating the local fishing industry and killing an estimated 250,000 sea birds, 3,500 sea otters, around 250 bald eagles, 300 seals and 22 orcas.
  • In 2006, just a quarter-inch pipeline rupture spilled 267,000 gallons on the North Slope when it went undetected for five days.
  • A 2010 Trans-Alaska pipeline rupture spilled 210,000 gallons.

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