President Trump and his administration have greenlit at least a half-dozen oil drilling projects in the Arctic region, making significant steps in towards threatening associated ecosystems. Unfortunately, the administration is seemingly actively neglecting the crucial problem involved with an oil spill in the region: such an incident would be incredibly difficult or even impossible to contain.
Two weeks ago, the Department of Interior's officials planned the first steps needed in order for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in Alaska to begin. An environmental review that was featured in the Federal Register set the stage for oil and gas leases within the 19-million-acre area.
“Developing our resources on the coastal plain is an important facet for meeting our nation's energy demands and achieving energy dominance,” the department's assistant secretary for land and minerals management, Joe Balash, said. “This scoping process begins the first step in developing a responsible path forward. I look forward to personally visiting the communities most affected by this process and hearing their concerns.”
While the industrialization of the coastal plain of Alaska had been opposed by a majority of the American citizenry, a provision in the GOP tax reform bill authorized the move.
Under the bill, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) must hold at least two lease sales before December of 2024.
The Trump administration's attempts to fulfill the drilling projects have caused a spike in the likelihood of disaster in the relevant Arctic region.
Reportedly, a major oil spill in the water could send endangered species like the polar bear and bowhead whale on a faster path to extinction.
Compounding the high risks of Arctic drilling is the Trump administration's efforts to repeal regulations on drilling that were adopted after Deepwater Horizon and other rules designed for Arctic drilling.
The National Commission on BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling, which is tasked with mitigating the impact of future oil spills, criticized the president's efforts to roll back safety regulations.
“The Commission looked specifically at the hazards in Arctic operations, and recommended several steps to ensure that the science of the Arctic was better known, that native communities were fully consulted, and that better investment in spill containment and response was required,” co-chairs Bob Graham and William Reilly wrote to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.
According to the director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s oceans program, Miyoko Sakashita, the process of extracting all of the recoverable oil and gas could potentially “release 14.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent into the atmosphere and oceans.”