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  • A polar bear swims at the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

    A polar bear swims at the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. | Photo: EFE

Published 27 April 2019

One of the main fears of the projects is how it would impact endangered species protections. Interference to the animals' habitats could lower demand for similar drilling operations.

Different agencies within the United States Interior Department are at odds over the effects of climate change that would result from the planned drilling of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

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According to the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), the draft of the environmental impact statement provided by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) minimized or omitted several important factors. 

The administration has previously been accused of underestimating emissions from such projects and has even lost several related cases in court. 

The FWS also urged that "the effects of a changing Arctic environment... be further addressed within the EIS."

The body has recommended several studies, such as "the potential landscape-level changes on the North Slope" to be used "in the analysis of potential impacts to various development scenarios," director of the FWS Alaska Region, Greg Siekaniec, explained. 

One of the main fears of the projects is how it would impact endangered species protections. Interference to the animals' habitats could lower demand for similar drilling operations.

Birds, according to the FWS, are not addressed in BLM's draft.

“Please ensure the EIS accurately assesses the potential impacts to birds and their habitat resulting from a changing climate based on the best available science." 

The result of rising sea-levels, loss of sea-ice and increased storm severity could potentially drive birds and polar bears inland. The risk of flooding also makes the occurrence of contamination more likely.

Director of public lands at the Center for American Progress, Kate Kelly, stated that BLM is "ignoring existing, peer-reviewed literature, and... they have made no attempt to fill the glaring science gaps on impacts to the refuge."

According to the environmental law scholar at Colombia University, Michael Gerrard, holding BLM accountable "sounds like authentic science is raising its head above water, which is refreshing" and added that "the fact that another agency has raised the [climate] issue makes it more perilous to ignore it in the final EIS, but it does not necessarily compel a different outcome."
 

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