Yesterday, a federal court ordered a huge win for polar bears, bowhead whales, eiders, and the Arctic sea ecosystem. The court ordered all oil and gas activites halted under controversial Lease Sale 193 in Alaska's Chukchi Sea until further environmental review is conducted by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Regulation and Enforcement (formererly the Minerals Management Service).
The Minerals Management Service had approved oil and gas leases in the ecologically sensitive and ice-choked waters of the Chukchi Sea without adequate prior analysis. It failed to gather baseline scientific information as well as failing to analyze the potential impacts of natural gas development from the sale. As a result, a large coalition of environmental groups and Native Alaskans, including the Sierra Club, were represented by Earthjustice in a challenge to Lease Sale 193 filed in 2008. Yesterday's decision affirms the need for proper and thorough environmental analysis.
The Chukchi Sea is an ecologically rich area, home to several endangered species, and is at the heart of the subsistence culture practice by native Inupiat communities. This court reflects the inherent dangers of oil and gas drilling in the area and should be a message to Secretary Salazar that the lease should be cancelled altogether. Our Arctic Seas are far too sensitive and important to risk selling off to a industry which has proven itself to be dirty and dangerous time and time again.