Saturday, April 18, 2009

Alaska Offshore Drilling Blocked

Court Blocks Alaska Offshore Drilling on Environmental Grounds

Environment News Service

Three conservation groups and a native village in Alaska declared victory today as the federal government's attempt to expand oil and gas drilling off the Alaska coast was vacated by a U.S. appeals court in Washington, DC.

The three judge panel ruled that the Bush-era Department of the Interior failed to consider the impact of drilling on the ocean and on marine life before it began the process in August 2005 of expanding an oil and gas leasing program in the Beaufort, Bering, and Chukchi seas.

The court ordered the Interior Department, headed currently by Secretary Ken Salazar, to analyze the proposed leasing areas to determine the risk of environmental damage before moving ahead with lease sales.

The judges sided with the Center for Biological Diversity, Alaska Wilderness League, Pacific Environment and the Native Village of Point Hope, who argued that the 2007-2012 Outer Continental Shelf Leasing Program would turn sensitive areas into polluted industrial zones.

Native Village of Point Hope President Caroline Cannon told ENS, "It's a victory and we thank God that we're able to see this day come."

Calling the decision "an historical event for the tribe and our tribal members," Cannon said, "Drilling will cause irreversible damage to our ocean and sea animals and would severely impact our cultural traditions. It would be committing cultural genocide. Drilling would pose an intimate threat to our existence."

Cannon said the tribe looks forward to working with Secretary Salazar "to protect our waters."

"Our culture and traditions give us our identify and pride as Inupiaqs," she said. "We are standing on the graves of our ancestors who fought for our way of life. We hope our children and grandchildren do not have to fight the same issues."

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