LETTER TO THE EDITOR: No drilling in Alaska – protect the Refuge

by Sep 29, 2020OPINIONS


The Western North Carolina Climate Action Coalition (CAC), a Haywood County-based organization, supports efforts to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) from fossil fuel drilling.  Citizens’ opposition had stopped pro-drilling legislation since the 1980’s.  Then in 2017 the U.S. Senate passed a taxation bill that allows for the ANWR to be opened for oil and gas extraction. 

Now the Trump Administration has given a green light to selling leases to drill in this irreplaceable area.  Just down the coast 1.9 million barrels of oil have already been spilled from the original Alaska Pipeline, the disastrous Exxon Valdez oil spill, and other environmental catastrophes.

The ANWR includes eighteen major rivers, hundreds of species of birds, land and marine mammals, and fish.   The Gwich’in people live in the northernmost part of ANWR.  For generations, they have depended on the animals who live there to sustain their lives and culture. They revere the Arctic Refuge Coastal Plain as a sacred place because it provides breeding grounds for the Porcupine Caribou Herd, animals that are essential for food and cultural traditions.  They also believe ANWR is the place where the creation of the world began.

The Gwich’in, native wildlife, and the entire ecosystem are all under imminent threat if the refuge is opened for drilling.  The Gwich’in Steering Committee, a voice for indigenous traditional hunting communities, is part of a lawsuit to challenge the oil and gas development plan.  

The Western NC Climate Action Coalition supports the Gwich’in people and the Indigenous Environmental Network, which are leading the campaign.  We also support efforts here in North Carolina to confront the climate crisis.  We applaud the work in our region to protect our waterways and other natural resources, including the successful opposition to construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

Pulling more oil or gas out of the ground would prolong an energy system that is rapidly becoming obsolete and that threatens our immediate future on this planet.  Banks such as JP Morgan Chase and companies including Shell Oil have already abandoned the destructive ANWR enterprise.

The money and resources for drilling in the ANWR should be put towards sustainable means of securing our future energy needs.


Mary J. Curry 

Mary Thomas 

Steve Wall