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Washington leads suit against Arctic Refuge drilling

UPDATED: Wed., Sept. 9, 2020

Caribou from the Porcupine Caribou Herd migrate onto the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in northeast Alaska. Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson joined a lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s attempt to open part of an Alaska refuge to oil and gas drilling where polar bears and caribou roam free.  (HOGP)
Caribou from the Porcupine Caribou Herd migrate onto the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in northeast Alaska. Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson joined a lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s attempt to open part of an Alaska refuge to oil and gas drilling where polar bears and caribou roam free. (HOGP)

Washington will lead a coalition of 15 states challenging the Trump administration’s decision to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil and natural gas production.

State Attorney General Bob Ferguson said Wednesday a federal lawsuit filed in Alaska contends the decision to drill on the Coastal Plain violates federal laws, including the Administrative Procedures Act, which has been a basis of other successful suits he has filed. It also claims the decision violates the National Environmental Protection Act with a flawed environmental review.

Opening the refuge to drilling is the latest example of president Donald Trump’s “assault on our environment,” Ferguson said.

It would harm Washington by exacerbating the effects of climate change and devastate birds that migrate through the state, the lawsuit contends. Washington would also be impacted by refining the oil extracted in the refuge, increasing the risk of spills and potential worker hazards, it adds.

Trump and his administration “unlawfully cut corners in their haste to allow drilling in this pristine, untamed wildlife refuge to oil and gas development,” Ferguson said in a news release announcing the lawsuit. An indigenous people’s community on the Coastal Plain also has filed suit against the plans to open the area to drilling.

Interior Secretary David Berhardt announced in mid August the administration would open all 1.5 million acres of the Coastal Plain to oil and gas leasing, calling it “a new chapter in energy independence” and a way to generate thousands of jobs. Congress had mandated the leases, he said.

Opening ANWR to more oil and natural gas exploration has been sought by Republicans and fought by environmentalists for decades. A requirement for the leases was in the 2017 tax bill passed by a Republican-controlled Congress and signed by Trump.

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