Gwich’in Leaders Denounce Senate Leadership for Slamming the Door on Sacred Lands in the Arctic Refuge

August 7, 2022


Gwich’in leaders were deeply disappointed today by the decision by the Senate to slam the door on protecting sacred lands in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as part of budget reconciliation–the very same process by which the destructive oil and gas mandate was tucked into the 2017 Tax Act. The failure to repeal the Arctic Refuge oil and gas program in the Inflation Reduction Act undermines its claims of meaningful climate action. 

“In the Arctic, we’re experiencing a warming climate at four times the rate as the rest of the world, yet Congress has chosen to ignore the health of the Arctic and the Gwich’in way of life by failing to stop this destructive and failed oil and gas program,” said Bernadette Demientieff, executive director of the Gwich’in Steering Committee. “We will never stop fighting to protect these sacred lands, the Porcupine caribou, and our communities.” 

Congress included a leasing mandate for the coastal plain of the Arctic Refuge in the 2017 Tax Act. The first lease sale on Jan. 6, 2021, drew no major oil and gas companies and failed to bring in even a fraction of 1 percent of the promised revenue.  

Despite owning leases, three oil companies have backed out of their interests in the Arctic Refuge completely, including Regenerate Alaska, the only oil company to bid in the Jan. 6, 2021 lease sale; and Chevron and Hilcorp, the two oil companies that held decades-old leases on lands within the coastal plain and know the results of a secret test well drilled in 1987. 

All major banks in the U.S. and Canada, along with 18 other international banks, have now said they would not finance drilling in the Arctic Refuge; and 14 international insurance companies and the U.S. insurer AIG have said they will not insure any drilling in the Arctic Refuge.

The Gwich’in Nation has repeatedly called for protections of the coastal plain of the Arctic Refuge in a formal resolution first passed in 1988. In July, on the first full day of the Gwich’in Gathering in Old Crow, Yukon, Canada, the Nation again reaffirmed that resolution calling for the U.S. President and Congress to “recognize the rights of the Gwich’in to continue to live our way of life by prohibiting development in the calving and post-calving grounds of the Porcupine Caribou Herd.”


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