Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

For Immediate Release

Contact

Kristen Monsell, (510) 844-7137, kmonsell@biologicaldiversity.org

Press Release

Biden Administration Proposes to Allow Oil Companies to Disturb Polar Bears, Walruses in Alaska’s Arctic

WASHINGTON -

The Biden administration issued a proposed rule today allowing oil companies operating in the Beaufort Sea and Western Arctic to harass polar bears and Pacific walruses when drilling or searching for oil for the next five years.

“It’s maddening to see the Biden administration allowing oil companies to continue their noisy, harmful onslaught on polar bears. Oil in this sensitive habitat should stay in the ground,” said Kristen Monsell, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “President Biden promised bold action to address the climate crisis, yet his administration is proposing to allow business-as-usual oil drilling in the Arctic. Polar bears and walruses could pay a terrible price.”

The Southern Beaufort Sea population is the most imperiled polar bear population in the world. With only about 900 bears remaining, scientists have determined that the survival of every individual bear is vital to the survival and recovery of the population.

The heavy equipment used in seismic exploration and drilling activities can crush polar bears in their dens or scare polar bears out of their dens too early, leaving cubs to die of exposure or abandonment by their mothers. The noise generated by routine operations can disturb essential polar bear behavior and increase their energy output.

Walruses are also incredibly sensitive to human disturbance. Without summer sea ice for resting, walrus mothers and calves have been forced to come ashore, where they are vulnerable to being trampled to death in stampedes when startled by noise.

In addition to seismic exploration, the rule covers construction and operation of roads, pipelines, runways, and other support facilities. It also covers well drilling, drill rig transport, truck and helicopter traffic, and other activities.

The Marine Mammal Protection Act generally prohibits killing, harming or harassing a marine mammal. The statute allows the federal government to authorize certain industrial activities to harm and harass marine mammals, provided such activities will take only a “small number” of animals and have no more than a “negligible impact” on the population.

The proposed rule covers existing and planned activities across a wide swath of Alaska’s Arctic, including 7.9 million acres in the Beaufort Sea, and onshore activities from Point Barrow to the western boundary of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. It includes the Willow development project that the Center and allies have challenged in court, and which the Biden administration this week submitted a brief defending.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will be accepting public comment on the proposed rule for 30 days.

Polar bear and cubs

###

At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature — to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters and climate that species need to survive. 

As Other States Try to Copy Texas, SCOTUS Asked to Find Abortion Ban Unconstitutional

The request from healthcare providers comes after a Florida Republican filed a copycat bill and advocacy groups called on Congress to affirm the right to abortion nationwide.

Jessica Corbett ·


As Bids to Slash Pentagon Budget Fail, US Military Spending Slammed as 'Height of Absurdity'

"Spending $780 billion on weapons and war while our communities starve, while the climate crisis worsens, while a pandemic that has killed millions and affected countless more rages on, is a national shame."

Brett Wilkins ·


'This Is Big': House Passes Amendment to Cut US Complicity in Saudi Bombing of Yemen

The vote, said Rep. Ro Khanna, "sent a clear message to the Saudis: end the bombing in Yemen and lift the blockade."

Andrea Germanos ·


Praised for 'Braving the Smears,' Tlaib Votes Against $1 Billion in Military Aid to Israel

One rights group thanked Tlaib "for speaking truth to power" while being attacked "for simply insisting that Palestinians are human beings who deserve safety, security, and freedom from Israeli apartheid."

Brett Wilkins ·


'A Choice Point for Humanity': Women Demand Visionary Shift at UN Climate Talks

"This is the time to unite together to build the healthy and just future we know is possible for each other and the Earth."

Julia Conley ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo