Arctic drilling plan under fire

arctic drilling plan
Image by David Mark from Pixabay
Indigenous communities and environmental activist groups are taking legal action to prevent the potential havoc new arctic drilling could bring.

Extinctions are probable with more Arctic drilling. Environmentalists know this toll and are continuously pursuing action against it.

The Trump Administration has recently gotten itself into hot water with its plans to open up a drilling plot in the Arctic region.

In Alaska, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) is in danger.

Activists are worried about Arctic drilling environmental concerns, and the Indigenous groups who use this land are also pushing against this decision. 


Historically, Arctic drilling has posed a threat to the environment. As workers drill, they search for fossil fuels like natural gas and oil. These two fuels add greenhouse gasses to the atmosphere in various ways and contribute to the climate crisis.

If the Trump Administration's plan for drilling in this area goes through, Alaska will see these negative effects. However, the backlash has been significant — and legal action will ultimately decide to what extent this drilling can go into place. 

In the Arctic region of Alaska, many Indigenous communities use the land for hunting and living. One of these groups is the Gwich'in community. The Inupiat people also use the land of the ANWR for food, clothing and shelter as a traditional, cultural home. 

The Coastal Plain of this region is primarily where the Trump Administration wants to begin drilling — which is where Arctic drilling has had tentative plans in the past. Of the almost 20 million acres that the ANWR spans, the administration would allow drilling in 1.56 million acres in the Plain.

The Coastal Plain blocks a large section of coastal access for both of these Indigenous communities. Thus, the Gwich'in people are pushing back against the administration's decision.


In the past, the US House of Representatives supported the Gwich'in people's requests to remove drilling from the region. Now, though, Indigenous communities must speak out again against Arctic drilling. The plan must make its way through the House and Senate before approval.

Extinctions are probable with more Arctic drilling. Environmentalists know this toll and are continuously pursuing action against it.

After the House's decision in 2019, the Refuge entails protections against things like drilling or development. However, this land's future is still unclear. 

Alongside the negative ways this drilling will affect Indigenous communities, Arctic drilling environmental concerns have also arisen. Both on a local and global level, drilling has repercussions that contribute to climate change. Environmental activists and groups are speaking out about the harm this decision could cause.

Drilling has been a danger to the surrounding area for years. The BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010 is still causing environmental repercussions in 2020. Without a proper plan for addressing spills, a disastrous event like BP's could occur again. 

Animals like grizzly bears, polar bears, wolves, foxes and caribou are native to that region of Alaska. With some animals like polar bears already being vulnerable, Arctic drilling could further harm these species. 


Environmentalists are also pointing out the dangers that come with drilling itself. While the oil will likely go to vehicles, powerplants and homes, drilling releases natural gas during the process — which is what caused the Deepwater Horizon explosion.

While workers can capture the natural gas and use it, things could always go wrong and lead to another major issue. Activists and environmental groups claim the emissions, wildlife harms and environmental effects are not worth the yield.

With the backlash from environmental and Indigenous groups alike, legal action has followed. First, several environmental groups have filed a lawsuit to challenge the Trump administration.

With assistance from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), this lawsuit is not the first concerning the administration's environmental actions. 


The plan, beginning in 2019, states that extinctions are probable with more Arctic drilling. Environmentalists know this toll and are continuously pursuing action against it. They also point to the violations of this plan — countless environmental policies and acts are in place to prevent this kind of drilling.

As Trump continues to pursue the plan, the House and Senate will ultimately need to support or reject it. In the past, the House sided with the Gwich'in people. However, with the 2020 elections coming up, seats will be up in both chambers.

The final decision will then require more examination.

A plan like this raises countless Arctic drilling environmental concerns as well as pushback from Indigenous and activist groups. No side is certain of the outcome — it is a politically tumultuous time, and all parties are not likely to back down.

The time to speak out is now.

This Author

Emily Folk is a conservation and sustainability writer and the editor of Conservation Folks.

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