Major Companies Abandon Arctic Drilling

Three major companies have bailed out of plans to develop oil exploration leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. For decades, pro-polluter politicians argued drilling there was a critical necessity. This makes it especially noteworthy these companies apparently don’t find it worth the trouble after all. 

“These exits clearly demonstrate that international companies recognize what we have known all along: drilling in the Arctic Refuge is not worth the economic risk and liability that results from development on sacred lands without the consent of Indigenous Peoples,” the Gwich’in Steering Committee said in a statement. “The Gwich’in are united against any development of the Coastal Plain of the Arctic Refuge.” 

“This is positive news for the climate and the human rights of Indigenous people whose survival depends on a healthy, thriving calving ground for the Porcupine Caribou Herd, and further proves that the oil industry recognizes drilling on sacred lands is bad business,” said the Wilderness Society’s Alaska state director, Karlin Itchoak. “Last year’s lease sale—which was hurriedly held just weeks before President Biden was inaugurated—was a dismal failure for Donald Trump’s Interior Department when no major oil companies submitted bids because they know the public opposes drilling in the refuge and leases there are a terrible investment.” 

Factors involved in reducing drilling’s appeal include the strong, enduring opposition from wildlife and wilderness groups as well as indigenous peoples who depend on wildlife herds in the refuge. Additionally, the rapid warming of the Arctic climate and its melting of the permafrost are making the necessary extensive development of roads and other infrastructure in the refuge more expensive, risky, and time-consuming. Ironically, the global damage to which increased drilling contributes is making new investments in wilderness drilling more difficult.

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