Environmental Victory Over Alaska Oil

20 07 2009
From: Flickr, 2009

From: Flickr, 2009

A former Bush Administration initiative was finally overruled by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The overturned land trade deal would have allowed drilling for oil and natural gas in the Yukon Flats Natural Wildlife Refuge. The key to this win was strong opposition from local Native American Villages who feared that the economic gains they would receive from such a venture would not outweigh the social and environmental impact of the proposed operation.

It is great to see an example of the environmental review process truly working out and doing what it is intended to do – that is protect the environment. Too often it seems that such review processes are not quite thorough enough, and favour development over the environment.

What is a little bit unnerving though, is that a FINAL decision won’t be made until 2010. So who knows what may change over the next few months? Some good news on this front though, is that Doyon says they are not being set back by this loss at all because they have other lands already, and having seen the opposition over the past few years, were not expecting a win out of this anyways.

The proposed land trade would have seen 207 000 acres of refuge land go to Doyon Ltd, a corporation owned by the Athabascan Indians of interior Alaska. Doyon would have then given 150 000 acres of ‘bird-rich’ non-refuge land back to the refuge, plus the future rights to 56 000 acres. So, I don’t have all the details, but this looks to me like those last 56 000 acres would be the ones that Doyon gives back once they’ve decided that there is not enough oil or gas beneath them to be economically feasible. Additionally, if this decision were not overturned by the Fish and Wildlife Service, it would provide a precedent for drilling in the neighbouring Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Former Alaskan Governor, Sarah Palin, was gung ho for this new oil development.

We can safely drill for U.S. oil offshore and in a tiny, 2,000-acre corner of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge if ever given the go-ahead by Washington bureaucrats.

She will be disappointed to learn that this ‘tiny’ piece of protected land will continue to be protected from oil exploration and development.   My favorite part of this story though? Many of the locals own shares of Doyon Ltd, yet they still didn’t want to see development in the refuge.

Article: http://www.reuters.com/article/environmentNews/idUSTRE56G6R120090717?feedType=RSS&feedName=environmentNews&pageNumber=1&virtualBrandChannel=0

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