Huffman, Markey Lead House and Senate Members in Joint Letters to DOI Opposing Lame-Duck Oil and Gas Lease Sale and Seismic Exploration in Arctic Refuge

December 16, 2020

Washington, D.C. – Today, Representative Jared Huffman, Chair of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Oceans, and Wildlife, and Senator Ed Markey, were joined today by 29 Senate and 79 House members in expressing strong opposition to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge oil and gas lease sale scheduled for January 6, 2021. In companion letters sent to the Department of Interior, the group of lawmakers ask the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to halt efforts to proceed with the lease sale and reject an application for seismic exploration that, if approved, would allow seismic testing to occur in the Arctic Refuge this winter. Oil and gas exploration and seismic testing would threaten endangered polar bears in dens on the Coastal Plain, and would likely result in significant and long-lasting harm to the unique Refuge habitat. 

“The oil and gas leasing program was adopted in violation of numerous laws that protect the Coastal Plain and ensure the integrity of the decision-making process,” write the House members in their letter. “As a result of these violations, BLM’s actions to date are currently the subject of four separate lawsuits. Before moving forward with these proposals, the BLM must remedy these legal deficiencies and ensure full compliance with numerous federal laws — including the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the National Historic Preservation Act, the Wilderness Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Tax Act, and the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act —  not run roughshod over them.” 

“The Coastal Plain of the Arctic Refuge is a national treasure that is no place for oil and gas exploration and development activities, and none should occur there,” write the Senators in their letter to Interior Department Secretary David Bernhardt. “It is also wholly unacceptable that the Trump administration seeks to hold a lease sale as one of its final actions. Given the result of the 2020 presidential election, any lease-sale decision should be left to the incoming Biden administration.”   

A copy of the letter signed by the Senators can be found HERE.  A copy of the letter signed by the House members can be found HERE.

The Arctic Refuge is one of our nation’s most majestic public lands, and its coastal plain contains the calving grounds for the Porcupine caribou herd and is home to denning polar bears, musk oxen, wolves, and more than 150 species of migratory birds. The Gwich’in Nation, living in Alaska and Canada and 9,000 strong, make their home on or near the migratory route of the Porcupine caribou herd, and have depended on this herd for their subsistence and culture for thousands of years.