Oil Drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, USA


Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) comprises 19,000,000 acres of the north Alaskan coast. It is the largest protected wilderness in the United States and was created by Congress under the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act of 1980.

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Basic Data
NameOil Drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, USA
CountryUnited States of America
SiteArctic National Wildlife Refuge
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Biodiversity conservation conflicts
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Oil and gas exploration and extraction
Land acquisition conflicts
Pollution related to transport (spills, dust, emissions)
Specific CommoditiesLand
Crude oil
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsThe US Geological Survey (USGS) estimates that ANWR's 10-02 could produce up to 1.5 million barrels day at full capacity after roughly a 10 year ramp-up of development.' (http://www.anwr.org/Background/ANWR-Oil-%E2%80%93-Politics-and-Logistics.php)

Nearly 1 million barrels of oil a day are produced from the existing oil fields in areas west of the Arctic Refuge, and new wells are brought into production each year. Americans use 19 million barrels of oil each day, or 7 billion barrels of oil per year. There is, therefore, a 50% chance of finding a 9 month's supply of oil in the 1002 Area, at $24 per barrel. (http://www.fws.gov/alaska/nwr/arctic/issues1.htm)

Water needed for oil development ranges from eight to 15 million gallons over a 5-month period, according to the Bureau of Land Management. If water is not available to build ice roads, gravel is generally used. Water resources are limited in the 1002 Area. In winter, only about nine million gallons of liquid water may be available in the entire 1002 Area, which is enough to freeze into and maintain only 10 miles of ice roads. Therefore, full development may likely require a network of permanent gravel pads and roads. (http://www.fws.gov/alaska/nwr/arctic/issues1.htm).

Shell recently proposed to drill offshore, about 70 miles away from Kaktovik, Alaska -- a one-square mile village with 245 inhabitants (http://www.discoverthenetworks.org/viewSubCategory.asp?id=165).
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Population245
Start Date1977
Company Names or State EnterprisesConocoPhillips Alaska from United States of America
BP Global Exploration from United States of America
Relevant government actorsCity & Borough of Juneau, Mayor, City of Homer, City of Kaktovik, City of Kivilina, City of Kodiak, City of Nenana, City of Nondalton, City of Soldotna, Vice Mayor, City of Valdez, City of Whittier, Denali Borough, Kenai Peninsula Borough, Ketchikan Gateway Borough, Kodiak Island Borough, Municipality of Anchorage, North Slope Borough, Alaska Legislature
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersGwich'in Indians of Arctic Village, Sierra Club, NRDC
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingIndigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Social movements
Forms of MobilizationDevelopment of a network/collective action
Media based activism/alternative media
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Other Environmental impacts
Potential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Oil spills, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
OtherMajor effects were defined as "widespread, long-term change in habitat availability or quality which would likely modify natural abundance or distribution of species." Moderate effects were expected for wolves, wolverine, polar bears, snow geese, seabirds and shorebirds, arctic grayling and coastal fish. (http://www.fws.gov/alaska/nwr/arctic/issues1.htm). Two-dimensional (2-D) exploration was authorized by Congress in the 1002 Area in the winters of 1984 and 1985. Monitoring of more than 100 permanent plots along the 1,400 miles of seismic lines has documented that while many areas recovered, some trails had still not recovered by 1999 (http://www.fws.gov/alaska/nwr/arctic/issues1.htm)
Socio-economic ImpactsPotential: Displacement, Loss of livelihood
OtherMajor restrictions on subsistence activities by Kaktovik residents would also be expected (http://www.fws.gov/alaska/nwr/arctic/issues1.htm)
Project StatusProposed (exploration phase)
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseEnvironmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Negotiated alternative solution
New legislation
Strengthening of participation
Technical solutions to improve resource supply/quality/distribution
Under negotiation
Development of AlternativesDrill elsewhere, don't drill at all
Do you consider this as a success?Not Sure
Why? Explain briefly.This is an ongoing issue and no plan has been officially made to begin drilling. All activities have been temporarily halted because of an incorrect environmental impact statement. There is strong support for this project, however this support will most likely outweigh the voices of the local people relying on the land for their subsistence.
Sources and Materials

Caribou and Conoco: Rethinking Environmental Politics in Alaska's ANWR and Beyond by Robert McMonagle


"No Offshore Oil Drilling: Committee Against Oil Exploration (CAOE)"
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Forbes, The Case Against Drilling In Alaska's Arctic Waters
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Resource Development Council: Alaska's Oil and Gas Industry
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Other Documents

Should we drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge? An Economic Perspective
[click to view]

Map of ANWR and 1002 Area
[click to view]

Environmental damage Vehicles in March 1985 compacted the snow and damaged underlying plants during seismic exploration activities
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Environmental damage Trail damage to tussock tundra the summer following winter seismic surveys
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Other CommentsThis is one of the top 40 influential environmental justice cases in the United States identified from a national survey of environmental activists, scholars and other leaders by graduate students at the University of Michigan
Meta Information
ContributorBernadette Grafton, [email protected], University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment
Last update07/05/2015