The Gwich’in Steering Committee Applauds Oil and Gas Company Exits from Arctic Refuge Leases

June 1, 2022


Fairbanks, AK  – The Gwich’in Steering Committee applauds the exit of major oil and gas companies from their leases on sacred land in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Regenerate Alaska, owned by parent company 88 Energy, has requested a refund from the Bureau of Land Management of its leases acquired in the government-mandated sale in January 2021. 

And this past weekend, the Anchorage Daily News reported that Chevron and Hilcorp quietly paid $10 million to Arctic Slope Regional Corp. to exit their legacy leases, which allowed for testing for oil and gas deposits in the Arctic Refuge in the 1980s (the results of which were never fully made public). 

These exits clearly demonstrate that international companies recognize what we have known all along: drilling in the Arctic Refuge is not worth the economic risk and liability that results from development on sacred lands without the consent of Indigenous Peoples.

The Gwich’in are united against any development of the Coastal Plain of the Arctic Refuge. This land, which we call Iizhik Gwats’an Gwandaii Goodlit (The Sacred Place where Life Begins), is vitally important to the Porcupine Caribou herd, which has sustained our communities for millennia. The Gwich’in Steering Committee has advocated for protection of this land since the 1980s, and in recent years, has been joined by international allies who have raised their voices to stand with us.

The results speak for themselves. A majority of Americans support protecting the Coastal Plain of the Arctic Refuge; twenty-nine global banks now have a policy to decline underwriting oil and gas projects in the Refuge; and fourteen international insurers have also made such commitments. The Biden administration temporarily halted lease activity due to concerns raised by a fast-tracked environmental review by the previous administration, and the United Nations has three times sounded alarms about the harm and human rights violations to the Gwich’in from proposed oil and gas development in the sacred Coastal Plain.

While we gladly welcome the news of these exits, it is a reminder of how much more work is necessary to protect this sacred land, our animals, and our people. Now, the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority (AIDEA) – a public corporation of the State of Alaska – is the only remaining major holder of oil and gas leases in the Arctic Refuge. 

“AIDEA must show respect to the Indigenous communities they have been overlooking in Alaska projects,” said Bernadette Demientieff, Executive Director of the Gwich’in Steering Committee. “We are spiritually and culturally connected to the land, water and animals. The Gwich’in people and our allies will never stop fighting to protect Iizhik Gwats’an Gwandaii Goodlit.”


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