Attorney General Tong joins lawsuit to protect Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from oil and gas drilling
(Hartford, CT) — Attorney General William Tong announced today he is joining a coalition of 15 states filing a federal lawsuit against the Trump Administration to protect Alaska’s pristine and undeveloped Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from oil and gas development.
The Coastal Plain is a 1.6 million-acre national treasure, unparalleled in its biological significance for hundreds of species, including caribou, threatened polar bears and millions of birds that migrate to and from six continents and through the lower 48 states. The area is sacred to the indigenous Gwich’in people and is particularly vulnerable to environmental stressors, including climate change, which has caused thinning sea ice and thawing of permafrost in the region.
Despite that, the Trump Administration’s Department of the Interior has authorized an oil and gas drilling program that will cause irreparable damage to one of the few remaining wild places in the nation. Congress had protected the Coastal Plain from drilling for more than 40 years until a provision in the 2017 Republican tax bill opened the door for development. The administration’s agency decision makes the entire Coastal Plain available for leasing.
“Allowing oil and gas companies to drill on the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Refuge without an adequate environmental impact review, is an irresponsible and reckless attack on an environmentally vulnerable national treasure,” Attorney General Tong said. “Not only would the Trump Administration’s oil and gas development plan devastate the habitats of hundreds of animals, endangered species and millions of migratory birds, but it will also worsen the already real threat of climate change. We will keep fighting to preserve and protect America’s unique and natural treasures.”
The lawsuit, filed today in U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska, asserts that the Trump Administration’s drilling plan violates multiple laws, including the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act (Refuge Administration Act), the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA), and the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (Tax Act). Among its many unlawful violations, the administration conducted a flawed environmental review that failed to take a hard look at the drilling plan’s impacts on migratory birds, greenhouse gas emissions, and climate change.
In fact, despite the overwhelming and increasingly harmful impacts of climate change in the United States and around the world, the Trump Administration’s environmental review for the drilling plan declares, “[T]here is not a climate crisis.”
The lawsuit, one of several legal challenges to the Trump administration’s oil and gas development plan, asserts that this unlawful action irreparably harms states by increasing greenhouse gas emissions and exacerbating the impacts of climate change on the environment and economy.
The lawsuit seeks to block any exploration activities and to prevent the government from issuing oil and gas development leases in the Coastal Plain.Also joining the lawsuit, led by Washington and Massachusetts, are the attorneys general of California, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont.