Desipte setbacks, the oil-industry and their puppets in the Bush administration are continuing their pursuit of an area in far north-central Alaska owned by the people of the United States--an area that is a crucial habitat area for migratory birds--an area separate from, and perhaps even more important, than the famous Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to its east.
"The area (Teshekpuk Lake) is one of the most important areas in the entire Arctic, and I don't just mean in Arctic Alaska," said Stan Senner, executive director of Audubon Alaska. "It is simply the most important goose-molting area in the Arctic."
In January 2006, the BLM approved a plan opening the sensitive area around Teshekpuk Lake to limited oil and gas drilling. The plan restricted the number of leases in the area, the overall acreage developed, and the time of year when work could be done.
Leases were included in an NPR-A lease sale scheduled for Sept. 27.
But shortly before the sale, a federal judge sided with environmental groups, including the Fairbanks-based Northern Alaska Environmental Center, and blocked the sale of leases in the northeast planning area. The judge claimed the BLM had not sufficiently accounted for cumulative impacts associated with development in the neighboring northwest planning area.
In November, the Bureau announced it would develop a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement to address cumulative impacts, and it put out a call for “specific … recommendations as to stipulations, operating procedures, and other mitigating measures that the BLM could consider to further its goal of reducing impacts.”
Wilson said the supplemental was originally expected out in June and will be released soon.
“We’re just adding new information, revising information based on new information, and then addressing the concerns of the court,” she said. Among other things, the new document will take into account a recent assessment of public health concerns.
The BLM is considering a number of alternatives for development, but has not given up plans to allow drilling around Teshekpuk Lake, according to Wilson.
At the same time, we are now learning that coastal erosion in this area of far northern Alaska is accelerating, perhaps due to the warming climate. From a separate article in the Daily News-Miner:
Taken together, drilling and erosion would create a “double whammy for the sensitive goose molting and caribou calving and insect-relief habitats,” wrote [Pamela] Miller [of the Northern Alaska Environmental Center], a former wildlife biologist, in an e-mail.
The Northern Alaska Environmental Center looks like a good place to go for more information on this ongoing saga.