WASHINGTON - Environmental advocates are concerned that the Trump administration is rushing through a plan to allow oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. There's less than a month left in the public comment period on opening 1.5 million acres of the reserve's environmentally fragile coastal plain to drilling.
But according to Adam Kolton, executive director of the Alaska Wilderness League, the administration is pushing for the sale of leases next year, before a thorough environmental impact statement can be completed. "This is a rush job and it's absolutely not in accordance with the commitment to do this in a responsible fashion," Kolton states. "We don't think there should be drilling there at all, but if your claim was you're going to do it responsibly, you're doing the exact opposite right now."
Supporters of drilling say it would create thousands of jobs, generate billions of dollars in revenue and help reduce the nation's dependence on foreign oil. But Kolton rejects those arguments. He points out that oil production in the United States is currently at record high levels. "Now we're exporting millions of barrels of oil to China, Asia, other countries, and we have the reality of climate change to contend with, so to open up these new areas, you might not even get to peak production for 20 or 30 years," he stresses.
Kolton says the push to drill is in a provision buried in last year's tax reform legislation that was added to get Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, a supporter of drilling, to vote for the bill. But Kolton says the refuge belongs to all Americans, and now is the time for them to make their voices heard.
"We're trying to get more than a million Americans to weigh in during this public comment period," he states. Comments can be registered through the Alaska Wilderness League website at www.alaskawild.org.