California Attorney General's Office

01/22/2020 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 01/22/2020 11:39

Attorney General Becerra Condemns Trump Administration’s Attack on Environmental Protections in Alaska Reserve

SACRAMENTO - California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, leading a coalition of 12 attorneys general, today filed a comment letter condemning the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Draft Plan to expand oil and gas leasing in the National Petroleum Reserve - Alaska (Reserve). The Reserve is the nation's largest unit of public land and home to critical fish and wildlife habitats on the Arctic Coastal Plan. BLM's proposal ignores the importance of this fragile ecosystem and would open up to 6.6 million acres of Reserve land to new oil and gas leasing, including habitats the Agency designated off limits in 2013. The expansion would not only threaten these habitats, but could increase greenhouse gas emissions from oil and gas drilling in the Reserve by up to 75 percent. The coalition maintains that BLM's proposed plan and its draft Environmental Impact Statement fail to meet legal requirements under the Administrative Procedure Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and the Naval Petroleum Reserves Production Act (Reserve Act).
'The Trump Administration's attempted land grab in Alaska would needlessly sacrifice our treasured wildlife and public lands. BLM has a responsibility to maintain these lands, not defile and destroy them for the sake of a quick buck,' said Attorney General Becerra. 'We have been entrusted to protect these lands for future generations. We won't let the Trump Administration's short-sighted policy agenda get in our way.'
In 2013, BLM banned oil and gas leasing in the Reserve's most important wildlife habitats, while also permitting leasing in half of the Reserve's 23 million acres. BLM's proposal would undo this compromise and open up millions of additional acres to leasing. The proposal would open key wildlife habitats to oil and gas development, endangering the populations of shorebirds and migratory birds, as well as vulnerable caribou herds that subsistence hunters in the region depend upon for food and survival. The proposed expansion would dramatically increase greenhouse gas emissions and threatens to upend nationwide efforts to curb the impacts of climate change.
BLM's proposal to expand leasing in the Reserve is the latest in a series of efforts by the Trump Administration to undo longstanding environmental protections for the Arctic region of Alaska. This proposal was released just weeks after another similar proposal in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
The proposal conflicts with advice from the Trump Administration's own U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which counseled that the BLM reverse course and maintain protections for the Reserve's important wildlife habitat. The Draft Plan suffers from multiple legal defects including the agency's failure to:

  • Justify new leasing in an area the agency deemed critical for caribou just seven years before, when in fact the status of the Reserve's wildlife has likely deteriorated since 2013 due to climate change;
  • Rationally analyze the impacts expanded leasing would have on the Reserve's migratory birds; and
  • Evaluate cumulative impacts of expanded leasing in the Reserve with proposed leasing in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The coalition urges BLM to withdraw the proposal and maintain the 2013 protections in the Reserve.
Joining Attorney General Becerra in filing the comment letter are the attorneys general of Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington.

A copy of the comment letter can be found here.