November 8, 2020 – SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed comments with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management on Friday as part of a coalition of 14 attorneys general (BLM) rejects Kaktovik Inupait Corporation’s proposal to conduct seismic surveys for oil and gas in the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Attorney General Becerra is currently on trial as part of a similar coalition, challenging BLM’s decision to advance a leasing program that will open more than a million acres of coastal plain for oil and gas drilling based on a flawed final environmental impact statement. The BLM is currently pursuing a rapid process of approving this seismic testing program, despite ongoing litigation and the environmental impact clearly associated with the proposal. In the comment letter, attorneys general urged the BLM to allow a reasonable period for environmental review and public comment under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) prior to authorizing seismic activity in the area.
“President Trump’s utter disregard for our environment is an accepted fact.” said Attorney General Becerra. “Unfortunately, it is not surprising that BLM is trying to get rid of a proposal to allow seismic testing in one of the last remaining pristine wilderness areas in the United States while litigation is ongoing over the proposed leasing program and its environmental assessment. We are ready to fight this reckless violation of our nation’s steroid laws for the next two months. “
The Kaktovik Inupait Corporation proposal would seismic test more than 450,000 acres of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge’s pristine coastal plain and allow the construction of hundreds of kilometers of snow access roads, multiple airstrips, and thousands of kilometers of receiver lines. The proposal is expected to have a significant impact on the environment, including essential habitat for polar bears, caribou and migratory birds. However, the BLM has not carried out a detailed environmental review of the proposal as requested by NEPA. Despite ongoing litigation contesting BLM’s decision to advance a program to rent more than one million acres of coastal plain, BLM is going through the process and allowing only a short 14-day comment period for the Kaktovik Inupait Corporation proposal. The BLM has also failed to consider the purposes for which Congress created the Arctic Refuge and how the proposal will be compatible with those purposes.
In the comment letter, attorneys general argue that the BLM cannot authorize activities in the coastal plain without fully complying with federal environmental laws and carefully considering the immediate and long-term effects of seismic activity in one of the last remaining wilderness areas in the country. In particular BLM:
- An Environmental Impact Statement must be prepared prior to authorizing seismic activity in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
- Failing to meet NEPA obligations by relying on the Coastal Plain Oil and Gas Program Environmental Impact Statement; and
- Must provide an explanation of how the proposal is compatible with and in line with the objectives of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Attorney General Becerra joins the states of Washington, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont to file the comment letter.
A copy of the comment can be found here.
Source: CA. DOJ