alaska

Trump Eyes Arctic Wildlife Refuge for Oil Drilling, Alarming Gwich’in

ANWR oil and gas caribou trump

In the remote north-eastern corner of Alaska, just under 20-million acres have been set aside as a federal protected area since 1960. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge has recently come under threat, however, with President Donald Trump’s Department of the Interior proposing lifting restrictions on seismic exploration.

In Photos: The Canadian Mining Boom You’ve Never Seen Before

Red Chris mine

If you’re in Vancouver this is way out in the middle of nowhere, but way out in the middle of nowhere is our backyard.”

Those are the words of Frederick Otilius Olsen Jr., the tribal president of a traditional Haida village on Prince of Wales Island, Alaska.

When I met him, he had travelled to Ketchikan, Alaska, to meet with officials about the risk posed by the mining boom across the border in British Columbia.

He stood on the boardwalk overlooking Ketchikan’s fishing fleet and waved his hands animatedly while he told me about how his culture — and southern Alaska’s economy — depends on salmon.

Alaskans Push U.S. Government to Investigate B.C.’s Border Mines

Red Chris Mine by Garth Lenz|DeSmog Canada

Fish and wildlife in Alaska’s major watersheds are threatened by six British Columbia mines close to the Alaska border, according to a new petition that asks U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross to investigate the threat of acid-mine drainage, heavy metals pollution and the possibility of catastrophic dam failure originating in the Canadian province.

The formal petition, organized by a coalition of Alaskan tribal governments and conservation groups, calls for the International Joint Commission to investigate threats from B.C. mines that will continue to hang over the watersheds for centuries after their closure.

It’s a very urgent issue and it’s important to a lot of people and their families,” Kenta Tsuda of Earthjustice, a signatory of the petition, told DeSmog Canada. “Their communities are at risk.”

After Years-Long Push, Fracking Has Quietly Arrived in Alaska

Hydraulic fracturing's horizontal drilling technique has enabled industry to tap otherwise difficult-to-access oil and gas in shale basins throughout the U.S. and increasingly throughout the world. And now “fracking,” as it's known, could soon arrive at a new frontier: Alaska.

As Bloomberg reported in March, Paul Basinski, a pioneer of fracking in Texas' prolific Eagle Ford Shale, has led the push to explore fracking's potential there, in what's been dubbed “Project Icewine.” His company, Burgundy Xploration, is working on fracking in Alaska's North Slope territory alongside the Australia-based company 88 Energy (formerly Tangiers Petroleum).

“The land sits over three underground bands of shale, from 3,000 to 20,000 feet below ground, that are the source rocks for the huge conventional oilfields to the north,” wrote Bloomberg. “The companies’ first well, Icewine 1, confirmed the presence of petroleum in the shale and found a geology that should be conducive to fracking.”

Comparing Mine Management in B.C. and Alaska is Embarrassing (and Explains Why Alaskans Are So Mad)

Tulsequah Chief Mine. CSMPhoto

Alaskans tired of living under the threat of B.C.’s poorly regulated mines are taking the matter to the state’s House Fisheries Committee in an effort to escalate an international response to ongoing issues such as the slow leakage of acidic waste from the deserted Tulsequah Chief Mine in northwest B.C. into the watershed of one of the richest salmon runs in the B.C./Alaska transboundary region.

On Thursday the committee will assess a resolution sponsored by several House Representatives “urging the United States government to continue to work with the government of Canada to investigate the long-term, region-wide downstream effects of proposed and existing industrial development and to develop measures to ensure that state resources are not harmed by upstream development in B.C.”

Although Tulsequah is a catalyst, concerns go deeper as B.C. is handing out permits for a clutch of proposed new mines close to the Alaskan border, including the KSM mine, the largest open-pit gold and copper mine in North America.

Alaskan Coalition Calls on U.S. to Investigate B.C. Mines

Mount Polley Mine Spill

Six B.C. mines pose threats to Alaska’s most productive salmon rivers and should be investigated by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior, according to a coalition of conservation groups and Alaskan First Nations who are invoking legislation that says it is the Interior Department’s duty to investigate when foreign nationals may be affecting U.S conservation treaties.

A petition presented to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell suggests that B.C. mines close to the Taku, Stikine and Unuk watersheds diminish the effectiveness of two treaties that protect Pacific salmon, steelhead trout, grizzly bears and woodland caribou.

The treaties are the Convention for the Conservation of Anadromous Stocks in the North Pacific Ocean and the Convention on Nature Protection and Wildlife Preservation in the Western Hemisphere.

The coalition of U.S. and Canadian groups, including Earthjustice, the United Tribal Transboundary Mining Work Group, Sierra Club of B.C., Craig Tribal Association, Friends of the Stikine Society and Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, are echoing a previous call by Alaska’s congressional delegation to refer the transboundary mines controversy to the International Joint Commission.

Feds Rely On Industry-Funded Study To Push For More Offshore Oil Exploitation

On Monday, April 25th, President Barack Obama tweeted out the following message to nearly 74 million followers on Twitter:
 

The tweet garnered thousands of shares and likes, and on the surface it appeared to be a genuine plea for action on climate change. But as we’ve seen all too often from this administration, what they say in public rarely matches what takes place behind closed doors.
 
Less than one day after President Obama tweeted out that message on climate change, David Sirota and Ned Resnikoff from the International Business Times aimed a spotlight at the Obama administration’s hypocrisy in an investigative piece that exposed again the fossil fuel industry's influence over our government. Prior to that, the Public Accountability Initiative had revealed the massive influence that the industry had over the government's assessment of the economic impacts of offshore drilling.

Meet Jeffery Hildebrand, the Texas Oil Billionaire Who Wants to Drill in the Arctic

This is a guest post by Tim Donaghy of Greenpeace USA.

Royal Dutch Shell may have recently scrapped its plans to drill for oil in the Chukchi Sea, but the oil industry has not given up its designs on the Arctic Ocean’s fossil fuels. In September, Houston-based company Hilcorp submitted a plan to develop and produce oil from the Liberty prospect in the Beaufort Sea off the north coast of Alaska. If the Obama administration approves Hilcorp’s plan it will mark a dubious milestone: the first oil produced entirely from federal waters in the Arctic Ocean. The President has made several important decisions in recent months to slow or halt Arctic oil exploration, but he can still do more. President Obama has the power to keep Arctic oil in the ground for good, and approving Hilcorp’s plan would be a step in the wrong direction.

B.C. Minister Bennett’s Visit Fails to Ease Alaskans’ Mining Concerns

Bill Bennett

Promises of a closer relationship between B.C. and Alaska and more consultation on B.C. mine applications are a good start, but, so far, Southeast Alaska has no more guarantees that those mines will not pollute salmon-bearing rivers than before this week’s visit by B.C.’s Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett, say Alaskan fishing and conservation groups.

Bennett, accompanied by senior civil servants from the ministries of Energy and Mines and Environment, took a conciliatory tone as he met with state officials, policy-makers and critics of what is seen as an aggressive push by B.C. to develop mines in the transboundary area, close to vitally important salmon rivers such as the Unuk, Taku and Stikine.

I understand why people feel so strongly about protecting what they have,” Bennett said in a Juneau news conference with Alaska Lt. Governor Byron Mallott.

There’s a way of life here that has tremendous value and the people here don’t want to lose it. I get that,” he said.

But promises of a strengthened dialogue and more opportunities to comment on mine applications fall far short of a growing chorus of Alaskan demands that the issue be referred to the International Joint Commission, formed under the Boundary Waters Treaty, which forbids either country from polluting transboundary waters.

Living Downstream of B.C.’s Gold Rush: Alaska’s Fishermen Fear End of ‘Last Wild Frontier’

Taku Inlet

No fish in the car, warned the rental car attendant at Juneau airport, with the weary tone of someone who had cleaned too many fish guts out of returned vehicles. It was a warning underlined by signs in hotels pleading with guests not to clean fish in the hotel bathrooms.

Fishing is in the DNA of Southeast Alaskans, not only as a sport and common way of filling the freezer, but also as a driver of the state economy. So it is not surprising that the perceived threat presented by a rush of mine applications on the B.C. side of the border has brought together diverse groups who want B.C. to give Alaska an equal seat at the decision-making table and to have the issue referred for review to the International Joint Commission.

I can’t conceive of not being able to fish for salmon. The grief would be too much to fathom,” said Heather Hardcastle, co-owner of Taku River Reds who has been commercial fishing for most of her life.

We share these waters and we share these fish. There has to be an international solution,” she said.

Pages

Subscribe to alaska