Letter: Parnell wrong; ANWR’s coastal plain is not open to drilling

Some places are too special to drill, and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is one of them. Gov. Sean Parnell’s interpretation of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act is simply incorrect. The coastal plain of the Arctic Refuge is not open to oil and gas exploration.

ANILCA allowed a one-time exploration program to provide data on oil and gas in the refuge. The Reagan administration set deadlines for exploration applications, and those deadlines expired in 1983 and 1984, so no new applications are valid. Parnell’s application is 30 years too late.

Outside of that one-time program, section 1002 of ANILCA clearly states, “… all public lands within the coastal plain are withdrawn from all forms of entry or appropriation under the mining laws, and from operation of the mineral leasing laws, of the United States.” 

The coastal plain is rich in Native subsistence resources and some of America’s most important habitat for polar bears, migratory birds, and caribou, as well as coastal lagoons for marine mammals. Congress closed this area to protect those values.

— Nicole Whittington-Evans

Alaska regional director

The Wilderness Society