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Press Release AG Healey Sues Trump Administration to Protect Arctic National Wildlife Refuge From Oil and Gas Drilling

For immediate release:
9/09/2020
  • Office of Attorney General Maura Healey

Media Contact for AG Healey Sues Trump Administration to Protect Arctic National Wildlife Refuge From Oil and Gas Drilling

Chloe Gotsis

BOSTON Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey today co-led a coalition of 15 attorneys general in suing the Trump Administration over its illegal plan to open up the entire Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas lease sales and drilling, a move that will exacerbate the impacts of climate change on communities in Massachusetts and across the country, threaten natural resources, and devastate birds that migrate through all 50 states.         

The lawsuit, co-led by AG Healey and Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, argues that the Trump Administration’s plan to open up the Coastal Plain to oil and gas drilling is based on a flawed, wholly deficient, and unlawful environmental review that fails to account for greenhouse gas emissions, climate change impacts, and harm to migratory birds. The complaint, filed today in U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska, contends that the plan violates multiple laws including the National Environmental Policy Act, the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act, the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, and the Administrative Procedure Act.

“President Trump’s plan to open up the pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas development will increase pollution and deepen the climate emergency – a crisis his Administration doesn’t think exists,” AG Healey said. “Climate change is already wreaking havoc on our economy and coastal communities. We are suing to stop this Administration from destroying our environment, our natural resources, precious wildlife, and thriving clean energy economies.”

The Arctic Refuge, often referred to as “America’s Serengeti,” is home to a diverse array of wildlife that relies on its fragile ecosystem. The Refuge’s 1.6-million-acre Coastal Plain is a national treasure, unparalleled in its biological significance for hundreds of species, including caribou, polar bears, grizzly bears, wolves and migratory birds. These animals are already facing the daily threat of climate change as permafrost thaws and arctic temperatures rise more than twice as quickly as the global average.

Congress successfully protected the region from gas exploration, drilling and production for more than 40 years, until a provision in the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act opened the door for development. Now, the Administration’s lease authorization makes the entire Coastal Plain available for oil and gas exploration and development. The leasing program is not needed to meet the country’s demand for oil and natural gas or for U.S. energy independence. Instead, short-sighted oil and gas development in the unspoiled Coastal Plan will increase greenhouse gas emissions and deepen our climate crisis, which the drilling plan’s flawed environmental review denies is a problem at all.

The lawsuit contends that states will shoulder the severe ecological and health consequences caused by the oil and gas leasing an development plan, including the devastating impacts of ocean acidification and coastal flooding, which could threaten the shellfish industry, costing jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars the industry contributes to coastal state economies. The plan’s impacts on migratory birds could harm birdwatching, which, contributes billions of dollars to the economy.

Massachusetts is home to world-class birding destinations, including Cape Cod and the Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge. In 2011 alone, birdwatchers and other wildlife watchers spent nearly $1.3 billion in Massachusetts, generating approximately $2.3 billion in economic benefits to the state.

The lawsuit specifically seeks to block the Trump Administration from issuing oil and gas development leases and to prevent exploration and drilling in the Coastal Plain.

Joining AG Healey and AG Ferguson in filing today’s lawsuit are the attorneys general of California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont.

 

Assistant Attorney General Matthew Ireland of AG Healey’s Environmental Protection Division is handling this matter for Massachusetts.

 

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Media Contact for AG Healey Sues Trump Administration to Protect Arctic National Wildlife Refuge From Oil and Gas Drilling

Office of Attorney General Maura Healey 

Attorney General Maura Healey is the chief lawyer and law enforcement officer of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
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