Arctic National Wildlife Refuge    Photo: Nathaniel Wilder, Politico

The Trump Administration in recent days has moved to quickly walk back protections for pristine areas of Alaska, advancing projects to develop the Pebble Mine that threatens Bristol Bay and its billion-dollar salmon fishery and also oil and gas drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) over the strenuous objections of Alaska native tribes and their corporations, local communities, fishers, tourism businesses, and environmental groups.  

  • EPA had originally decided to keep in place an Obama Administration decision blocking the mine because of the potential to harm the Bristol Bay salmon fishery, but then reversed course and on Tuesday announced that it was lifting its “veto” of a Clean Water Act permit that the Army Corps of Engineers will now be able to grant to allow the mining company to fill in wetlands.
  • A recent exposé in Politico described how the Secretary of Interior (who is a former oil and gas lobbyist) is determined to complete the environmental reviews of oil and gas drilling in ANWR in half that time, and conduct lease sales for areas in ANWR before the end of 2019.

Why This Matters:  Rushing to drill and destroy our national heritage, this Administration is acting like they won’t have a second term to finish what they have started.  Alaska is melting and burning because of fossil fuels and this Administration — and Alaska’s Republican politicians who know what is happening to their state — are just barreling ahead with these projects.  We still have the basic environmental laws on the books, but legal challenges to their implementation may only be able to slow the Administration down enough to keep the drilling and digging from starting before the next election – but they probably cannot prevent them.  The fate of Alaska’s unspoiled natural resources, more than 10,000 fishing jobs, and the Native Alaskan’s heritage and way of life hang in the balance of the 2020 election. 

Pebble Mine vs. Salmon

  • The Pebble Mine mineral deposit sits beneath state land, according to The Anchorage Daily News.  And it is surrounded by two National Parks — Katmai and Lake Clark — that are some of the wildest parks remaining.  This is public space and natural resources that are being compromised.
  • The National Parks and Conservation Association explains that “Lake Clark protects the headwaters of the Kvichak and Nushagak Rivers that flow into Bristol Bay, home to the world’s largest wild sockeye salmon run. Wild salmon feed generations of families in the region, play an essential role in the ecosystem and anchor the local economy with its $2 billion fishing industry.
  • Katmai National Park is home for “one of the most incredible bear-watching opportunities anywhere on the planet.”

ANWR –  Politico Reveals Trump Administration Squelching the Science on Drilling Impacts

  • “Documents leaked to POLITICO Magazine and Type Investigations reveal that the work of career scientists has at times been altered or disregarded to underplay the potential impact of oil and gas development on the coastal plain.”
  • “Moreover, DOI has decided it will undertake no new studies as part of the current review process, despite scientists’ concerns that key data is years out of date or doesn’t exist.”

To Go Deeper:  Read the full Politico story – it is worthy of your time.

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