Washington, D.C. – Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet joined 29 U.S. Senators in expressing strong opposition to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (Arctic Refuge) oil and gas lease sale scheduled for January 6, 2021. In a letter sent to the Department of Interior (DOI), Bennet and his colleagues ask the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to halt the lease sale and reject an application for seismic exploration that, if approved, would allow seismic testing to occur in the Arctic Refuge this winter. Oil and gas exploration and seismic testing would threaten endangered polar bears in dens on the Coastal Plain and would likely result in significant and long-lasting harm to the unique Refuge habitat.
“The Coastal Plain of the Arctic Refuge is a national treasure that is no place for oil and gas exploration and development activities, and none should occur there,” wrote Bennet and the senators in their letter to Interior Department Secretary David Bernhardt. “It is also wholly unacceptable that the Trump administration seeks to hold a lease sale as one of its final actions. Given the result of the 2020 presidential election, any lease-sale decision should be left to the incoming Biden administration.”
This letter has bicameral support with 80 members of the U.S. House of Representatives sending a companion letter to Bernhardt.
In addition to Bennet, the letter was signed by U.S. Senators Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Jeffrey Merkley (D-Ore.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.).
The text of the letter is available HERE.
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is the largest unit in the National Wildlife Refuge System and one of the nation’s most treasured areas. In 1960, President Dwight Eisenhower established the original refuge, which comprised 8.9 million acres, as the Arctic National Wildlife Range. It was later expanded in 1980 to its current 19.6 million acres and renamed the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The 1.56 million-acre Coastal Plain, the biological heart of the Refuge, supports more than 250 species, including caribou, polar bears, grizzly bears, wolves, muskoxen, wolverines, and migratory birds It is also the sacred home of the Gwich’in Nation, who are linked to the Porcupine Caribou herd of the Refuge through their food system, shared environment, and long-standing culture.