The Gwich’in Steering Committee Celebrates Another Oil Driller Exit from Arctic Refuge 

August 22, 2022


Fairbanks, AK  – The Gwich’in Steering Committee applauds yet another company for exiting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Knik Arm Services is the latest to cancel their oil and gas lease and request a refund from the Bureau of Land Management. Knik Arm Services was one of three companies to bid in the government-mandated lease sale in January 2021, and the second to walk away from oil and gas development in the Arctic Refuge. 

Two months ago, Regenerate Alaska also requested a refund from the Bureau of Land Management and 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 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 Nation is united against any development or destruction of the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife 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. Congress recently slammed the door on an opportunity to repeal this disastrous drilling program by failing to include a provision in the Inflation Reduction Act, and the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority (AIDEA) – a public corporation of the State of Alaska – continues to hold onto oil and gas leases in the Arctic Refuge. 

“I was very disappointed to see that Congress did not include protections for one of the last untouched ecosystems in the world in the climate bill,” said Bernadette Dementieff, Executive Director of the Gwich’in Steering Committee. “These lands are sacred, and we – the Gwich’in people – will never give up fighting to protect the Arctic Refuge. We call on Congressional leaders and President Biden to recognize the rights of Indigenous communities that are being overlooked in Alaska and repeal the oil and gas program in the Arctic Refuge. 


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