Alaska Sues DOI over ANWR Exploration Plan

Governor Sean Parnell announced Friday that the State of Alaska has filed a lawsuit challenging the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) refusal to consider the State’s carefully developed exploration plan for the coastal plain, or 1002 Area, of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).

“It is both disappointing and disturbing that the Obama administration, which claims that it is pursuing an ‘all of the above’ energy policy, is afraid to let the people of the United States learn more about ANWR’s oil and gas resources,” Governor Parnell said. “The modern technology that we are seeking to use is responsibly utilized all across the North Slope with extremely limited environmental impact, and would dramatically improve our understanding of ANWR’s resources. The State has filed this lawsuit to ensure all Americans have an opportunity to learn about the vast resource base Americans own in the 1002 Area of Alaska.”

The State’s complaint asserts that exploration of this area was mandated by the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) and is still authorized by the plain language of law today, despite the Fish & Wildlife Service director’s assertion in his final administrative decision in September 2013, that his agency did not have authority to review the State’s plan.

The Fish & Wildlife Service’s position was primarily based on a legal opinion, issued by a Department of the Interior solicitor in the final days of the Clinton administration, claiming that these provisions of ANILCA had expired. Despite the numerous legal issues raised by the State in its filings, the Fish and Wildlife Service in 2013 refused to revisit its interpretation of the still-existent federal law.

The State’s exploration plan was submitted to Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell in July of 2013 and complies with existing USFWS regulations. The plan called for using advanced three-dimensional seismic imaging that would provide the people of Alaska and the United States with valuable information about the extent and accessibility of the significant oil and gas resources in the 1002 Area.

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