Media Advisory, April 4, 2016

Contact: Dune Lankard, (907) 952-5265,

Alaskans to Rally Against Offshore Oil Drilling During Tuesday’s Hearing

ANCHORAGE, Alaska— A large, colorful protest on Tuesday will greet a U.S. Interior Department public hearing on its proposal to expand offshore oil and gas leasing in the Arctic region, Cook Inlet and Gulf of Mexico. The rally will include visuals, political theater, Native Alaskan speakers and an appearance by the Center for Biological Diversity’s “Frostpaw” the polar bear.
This is among the first in a series of public hearings Interior is holding around the country on the draft 2017–2022 offshore oil leasing plan, which rejected Atlantic leases but proposed expanded leasing around Alaska and Gulf of Mexico. In announcing the plan on March 15, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said the administration would consider withdrawing the three Arctic-area leases from the final plan based on public testimony, making this hearing a potentially pivotal moment for Alaska’s future.   

“Alaska’s people and wildlife can’t take more offshore oil drilling. As a lifelong subsistence and commercial salmon fisherman, I continue to experience the lasting devastation caused by the Exxon Valdez disaster. The risk of more oil spills is just too high, and we’re already experiencing climate change in the form of melting glaciers and sea ice and dangerously rising oceans,” said Dune Lankard, an Eyak tribal leader and senior Alaska representative of the Center for Biological Diversity. “People need to speak out now and say no new oil leases. Keep it in the ground.”  

What: A broad cross-section of environmentalists, Native Alaskans, fishermen and concerned residents will testify against federal plans to issue new offshore oil leases in Cook Inlet and the Chukchi and Beaufort seas. The group of dozens to 100 will also hold a colorful rally (with eye-catching visuals for photographers) during the hearing and record public comments for submission to the department.

When and where: The rally will begin at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, and the official public meeting is 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Embassy Suites, 600 E Benson Blvd., Anchorage. Public testimony will occur in the hotel’s Explorer Room.      

Who: Speakers will include Rick Steiner from Oasis Earth, Faith Gemmill from REDOIL, Dune Lankard from the Center for Biological Diversity, fisherman Kory Blake of Cordova, and Janet Mitchell, administrator from the city council in Kivalina, an Alaska community being displaced by climate change.

Why: If the United States is going to tackle climate change, the federal government needs to halt all new offshore fossil fuel leases in federal waters, something the Center has formally petitioned President Obama to do.

  • Banning new fossil fuel leases in federal waters would prevent nearly 62 billion tons of greenhouse gases from entering the atmosphere and exacerbating climate change, according to a study commissioned by the Center.
  • Polar bears, walruses, salmon and other vulnerable species around Alaska are threatened by oil spills now and climate change in the long run.
  • Offshore drilling is inherently risky, and that’s particularly true in the treacherous seas around Alaska. The Department of the Interior admitted Shell’s project last year had a 75 percent chance of causing a major oil spill that would be nearly impossible to clean up.
  • Allowing new offshore leases in the Arctic region would undermine U.S. climate change commitments and leadership and encourage other countries to pursue dangerous drilling projects in the Arctic.
  • The federal government’s latest five-year plan calls for one new lease each in Cook Inlet and the Chukchi and Beaufort seas, and these leases would last for decades, delaying the transition to renewable-energy sources.
  • Oil companies already have enough currently identified fossil fuel reserves to last for decades — more than enough to get through the transition to clean power.
  • Fighting offshore drilling around Alaska is part of a growing national movement to “keep it in the ground” that is targeting federal auctions for coal, oil shale, natural gas, crude oil and tar sands on federal lands and oceans.


The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 990,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.


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