The Arctic Ocean—the pristine home to bowhead whales, gray whales, polar bears, walruses, and other magnificent wildlife, along with many indigenous communities—could potentially lose crucial protections from risky offshore oil and gas drilling.
Every five years, the US Department of Interior creates a plan that says where oil and gas companies can purchase leases for offshore drilling. The most recent one, finalized in January 2017, excluded new oil and gas leasing in the Arctic waters offshore of Alaska through 2022. However, the Department of the Interior launched a process to change that plan last summer. Now a new draft proposal, which would apply to the years 2019-2024, calls for the removal of crucial Arctic protections and authorization of new leasing in this incredible landscape.
“It’s back to the future again with this proposal to promote risky offshore drilling in America’s Arctic Ocean,” said Brad Ack, WWF’s senior vice president for oceans. “Previous failed attempts demonstrated that the region’s unforgiving conditions are no place to explore for fossil fuels the world no longer needs.”
The Arctic was kept out of the previous five-year plan to protect the marine mammals, seabirds, and other wildlife that live there, along with their migratory paths and sensitive habitats. And native communities in Alaska continue to depend on the health of these subsistence resources for survival.