I have been advised that the Lease has been blocked!
JUNEAU, AK (September 25, 2006) -- The US District Court for Alaska today issued a strongly worded decision that could save the internationally significant wildlife habitat around Teshekpuk Lake in the Northeast Planning Area of the National Petroleum Reserve, Alaska (NPRA). The court found the government's environmental analysis violated federal environmental laws. Today's ruling strikes down the Interior Department's leasing plan for the area, and prohibits the BLM from proceeding with a planned sale of oil and gas leases on more than 400,000 acres around the lake. The lease sale was to have taken place September 27.
"This is a great victory for wildlife and the environment," said Deirdre
McDonnell, attorney for the conservation groups that challenged the oil
leasing plan. "The Court's decision means that the administration will
have to analyze the full environmental effect of its rush to lease the
entire North Slope. We're hopeful that when the environmental costs are
calculated fully, the administration will recognize that this area is
just too vital to be sacrificed to the oil companies."
"Common sense and science have prevailed over the oil industry's
campaign to drill no matter what the cost," said Stan Senner, Executive
Director of Audubon Alaska. "Because of its critical importance for
migratory birds and other wildlife, what happens at Teshekpuk Lake has
ripple effects that reach across the world."
In today's decision, US District Judge James Singleton, Jr. found that
the Department of Interior's Bureau of Land Management (BLM) failed to
consider the cumulative environmental impact of widespread oil and gas
drilling in the NPRA, a key point in conservation groups' arguments
against the plan to lease the area around Teshekpuk Lake, enjoins BLM's
decision and remands the matter to the agency for further analysis.
"Having failed to fully consider the cumulative effects of the proposed
development in NE [Northeast planning area of the NPRA] and the
previously proposed action in the NWPA [Northwest NPRA planning area],
Defendants have violated NEPA and abused their discretion," writes Judge
Singleton in the final decision, which was issued today.
Alaska Native communities near Teshekpuk Lake strongly opposed the
federal plan to allow oil and gas drilling around the lake, which is an
important subsistence hunting and fishing ground. They have been joined
by scientists, sportsmen's groups, other conservationists, and hundreds
of thousands of concerned citizens who have voiced their concerns about
the threat that drilling poses to nesting and molting grounds used by
large populations of geese and other waterfowl and to caribou calving
habitat. This summer, more than 100,000 citizens submitted comments to
the Interior Department this summer demanding protection for vital
habitat in the Teshekpuk Lake area, bringing the total number of
pro-conservation comments to over 300,000 since 2005.
This area has enjoyed special protection from oil drilling since the
Reagan administration. Despite pleas from Alaska Natives and the public
at large to Interior Secretary Kempthorne to protect the most sensitive
habitat around Teshekpuk Lake, BLM had scheduled a September 27 lease
sale in the NPR-A's Northeast Planning Area , including sensitive areas
around the lake, the largest and most biologically productive lake on
the North Slope.
"We're talking about an area that is the summer home for a tremendous
number of North America's ducks and geese. said Eleanor Huffines,
Alaska Regional Director for The Wilderness Society. "Given the oil
companies' dismal environmental record on the North Slope of Alaska,
it's just common sense that a place as unique and important as Teshekpuk
Lake should be set aside and protected."