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Oil Drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska, USA

Oil drilling and extraction threaten the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge comprising 19, 000,000 acres in the north Alaskan coast. Caribou and other wildlife is threatened , as also the local populations.


By 2019, the fate of the ANWR was in doubt because President Trump’s administration was keen to start selling leases for oil extraction to big oil companies such as Exxon and others. A much disputed EIS (environmental impact statement) has been issues, many opponents has sent negative comments. “Commenters raised concerns about oil and gas development’s impacts to wildlife, including the destruction of polar bear dens and the nesting grounds of more than 200 migratory birds. Comments also took issue with the analysis of drilling’s impacts to the Porcupine caribou, which some Alaska Native people—such as the Gwich’in and Iñupiat—depend on as a critical food and cultural resource. In addition, various comments expressed concerns about the greenhouse gas emissions that would come from the project. From outside the US,  the Inuvialuit Game Council—a Canadian council representing the Inuvialuit peoples’ wildlife and habitat interests—and several Canadian advisory councils and committees commented that the draft EIS “fails to fulfill the United States’ EIS obligations under both US domestic law and under international law and fails to recognize the transboundary nature of the Arctic Coastal Plain.” The group highlighted the potential impact that a lease sale would have on Canada and criticized the draft EIS for lacking the quantitative data and analyses necessary to consider drilling in the Arctic Refuge. In addition, the Gwich’in Steering Committee—formed in 1988 to represent the interests of the Gwich’in, including the protection of the Porcupine caribou herd and its habitat—along with 152 advocacy organizations across 33 states, submitted comments in opposition to the BLM’s “deficient” draft EIS.” (1),

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Oil Drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska, USA
Country:United States of America
State or province:Alaska
Location of conflict:Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Biodiversity conservation conflicts
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Pollution related to transport (spills, dust, emissions)
Land acquisition conflicts
Oil and gas exploration and extraction
Specific commodities:Crude oil
Project Details and Actors
Project details

The US Geological Survey (USGS) estimates that ANWR's 10-02 could produce up to 1.5 million barrels day at full capacity after roughly a 10 year ramp-up of development.' (

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Type of populationRural
Affected Population:245
Start of the conflict:1977
Company names or state enterprises:ConocoPhillips Alaska from United States of America
BP Global Exploration from United States of America
Relevant government actors:City & Borough of Juneau, Mayor, City of Homer, City of Kaktovik, City of Kivilina, City of Kodiak, City of Nenana, City of Nondalton, City of Soldotna, Vice Mayor, City of Valdez, City of Whittier, Denali Borough, Kenai Peninsula Borough, Ketchikan Gateway Borough, Kodiak Island Borough, Municipality of Anchorage, North Slope Borough, Alaska Legislature
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Gwich'in Indians of Arctic Village, Sierra Club, NRDC
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Social movements
Gwich’in and Iñupiat
Forms of mobilization:Development of a network/collective action
Media based activism/alternative media
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Other Environmental impacts
Potential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Oil spills, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Other Environmental impactsMajor effects were defined as "widespread, long-term change in habitat availability or quality which would likely modify natural abundance or distribution of species." Moderate effects were expected for wolves, wolverine, polar bears, snow geese, seabirds and shorebirds, arctic grayling and coastal fish. ( Two-dimensional (2-D) exploration was authorized by Congress in the 1002 Area in the winters of 1984 and 1985. Monitoring of more than 100 permanent plots along the 1,400 miles of seismic lines has documented that while many areas recovered, some trails had still not recovered by 1999 (
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Displacement, Loss of livelihood
Other socio-economic impactsMajor restrictions on subsistence activities by Kaktovik residents would also be expected (
Project StatusProposed (exploration phase)
Conflict outcome / response:Environmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Negotiated alternative solution
New legislation
Strengthening of participation
Technical solutions to improve resource supply/quality/distribution
Under negotiation
Development of alternatives:Drill elsewhere, don't drill at all
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:This is an ongoing issue and no plan has been officially made to begin drilling. All activities have been temporarily halted because of an incorrect environmental impact statement. There is strong support for this project, however this support will most likely outweigh the voices of the local people relying on the land for their subsistence.
Sources & Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Caribou and Conoco: Rethinking Environmental Politics in Alaska's ANWR and Beyond by Robert McMonagle

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

"No Offshore Oil Drilling: Committee Against Oil Exploration (CAOE)"
[click to view]

Forbes, The Case Against Drilling In Alaska's Arctic Waters
[click to view]

[click to view]

Resource Development Council: Alaska's Oil and Gas Industry
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

(1) Jenny Rowland-Shea and Sung Chung, Trump administration is suppressing science and public opinion to drill Arctic Refuge. Centre for American Progress. 26 June 2019.
[click to view]

Other comments:This is one of the top 40 influential environmental justice cases in the United States identified from a national survey of environmental activists, scholars and other leaders by graduate students at the University of Michigan
Meta information
Contributor:Bernadette Grafton, [email protected], University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment
Last update30/06/2019
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