...help us keep up the momentum.
In just the first month of 2023, we've gotten major updates on several Alaska projects from the federal government. From the Tongass National Forest to Bristol Bay, organizers who have been pushing for protections for these lands and communities for years are celebrating.
However, other areas are still at risk of dangerous extractive development projects. The ConocoPhillips' Willow project has taken a step forward, and Donlin Gold continues to argue that it should be permitted to begin work.
Read on below for more information and other updates on the beginning of the year at Northern Center - and if you're in Anchorage next week, stop by and see us at the Alaska Forum on the Environment.
Willow's Final Environmental Impact Statement
Photo by Emily Sullivan, 2022.
Yesterday, the Interior Department released a Final Environmental Impact Statement for ConocoPhillips’ Willow project in Alaska’s Western Arctic. The permitting decision on the project can be issued anytime after a 30 day review period.
This oil project will be a defining decision for the Biden administration’s climate legacy, and we must pressure the administration to consider the weight of the decision. The Willow project would lock us in to fossil fuels for the next 30 years and cause irreversible damage to the Arctic landscape: accelerating climate change, endangering public health, harming wildlife, and threatening subsistence hunting.
The Northern Center opposes any new oil and gas development on federal lands, and stands strongly against the ConocoPhillips Willow project.
Stay tuned for future action items on this issue. For now, if you use social media, we encourage you to share your concerns with the hashtag #StopWillow.
February 16: Northern Voices Speaker Series
Two weeks from today, on February 16 at 4:00 PM, join us for our second virtual Northern Voices Speaker Series.
Colleen Fisk, Energy Education Director at the Renewable Energy Alaska Project, will talk about the current energy landscape of Alaska. She will discuss the types and sources of energy used in different areas, energy efficiency and renewables, and some upcoming projects to look out for.
To register for this virtual event, go to bit.ly/NVSSfeb.
While this event is free, we encourage you to make a donation to support our educational programming if you have the means to do so.
#NoDonlinGold Goes to Court
In January, Earthjustice attorney Olivia Glasscock argued in court that the Donlin mining project was unconstitutionally granted a permit to build more than 200 miles of pipeline across public land.
On behalf of the tribes opposing the Donlin Gold mine, Glasscock argued that the Alaska state constitution requires resource development to be done in a way that is in the public's interest, and that the federal permitting process is not designed to evaluate what is in Alaska's public interest.
Donlin Gold mine would create health and safety risks that could not be outweighed by any potential profit. The mine and its associated infrastructure would have significant impacts on subsistence, culture, and health of Alaska Native communities along the Kuskokwim River.
With this week's news that the EPA issued a final determination to stop the proposed Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay, Katie McClellan, Northern Center's Clean Water and Mining Program Coordinator said, "The recent win in the Pebble mine fight shows that when we follow the lead of the peoples who are most impacted, our ecosystems, communities, and state all benefit. While we celebrate this success, it is important for us to carry those lessons forward in organizing around the Donlin mine fight and amplify community efforts to protect their local waters, lands, and culture from what would become the world's largest open pit gold mine."
Northern Center works closely with the Mother Kuskokwim coalition, and opposes the Donlin Gold proposal. Learn more at nodonlingold.org.
The 2023 PFD application is now open, and closes March 31, 2023. The Northern Center is participating in Pick.Click.Give. and you can select our organization to receive a portion of your PFD.
We recognize that the Permanent Fund is complex. On one hand, the PFD is a rare example of universal income which helps many people meet their basic needs. On the other hand, it is founded on climate chaos and helps to perpetuate reliance on harmful extractive industries.
Christin Swearingen, our Development Coordinator, stated, "Personally, my husband and I are putting our PFD checks towards savings for renewable energy upgrades, and donating a portion to charities, including the Northern Center. If you would also like to donate to charity, the Pick.Click.Give. organization makes it easy, and there are many deserving environmental causes on the list."
If you can afford to reallocate part or all of your PFD, we hope you will consider giving to environmental groups that are working toward a just future for all of us.
Today is World Wetlands Day! Alaska contains over 174 million acres of wetlands that serve critical ecosystem needs such as wildlife habitat, water filtration, and flood protection, among other important functions. In Alaska, the Dunleavy administration is pursing state primacy over the federal Clean Water Act 404 permitting process, the very process that protects wetlands. Our friends at The Alaska Center shared this piece last year outlining the concerns many organizations across the state have with the pursuit of state primacy over this permitting program. Just yesterday, a feasibility analysis was released to the legislature outlining how Alaska DEC might take over this program. Unsurprisingly, the authors determined that the state is well poised to take over the program, but the numbers simply don't add up. As we dive deeper into this analysis, we will share more updates on why state primacy over the 404 process would be bad news for Alaska's wetlands. We need to uphold protections for these critical ecosystems, not reduce them.
- Seeking to speed development, Alaska aims to take over enforcement of Clean Water Act program from the feds - For more background on the 404 proposal in Alaska, read this piece from Anchorage Daily News published in April.
3 things to know about Biden’s Alaska oil decision - Read this current analysis of what the Biden administration is considering in its final decision on Willow, featuring quotes from our partners.
Revealed: how US transition to electric cars threatens environmental havoc - This article highlights a new report on the future of electric vehicles. “The report brings into light possibilities for a future without fossil fuels that minimizes mineral extraction and new harms to communities in lithium-rich areas,” said Pía Marchegiani, policy director at the Environment and Natural Resources Foundation in Argentina.
February 6: Arctic Audubon Winter Speaker Series
7pm at Carlson Center Pioneer Room. Dr. Doug Wacker will present Ravens Calling in a Random Forest. The Common Raven (Corvus corax) is a highly intelligent and social bird species, which emits numerous vocalizations. Despite a considerable amount of research, we still don’t fully understand what all of these calls mean. Come listen to some interesting raven calls, learn about previous work on the topic, and find out about new research integrating field recording and machine learning approaches to better understand raven vocal communication. Free & Open to All!
February 6-10: Alaska Forum on the Environment
This annual conference will feature in person and virtual events focused on those making an impact on our environment. The Northern Center will be tabling at the in person event in Anchorage.
The Northern Alaska Environmental Center promotes conservation of the environment and sustainable resource stewardship in Interior and Arctic Alaska through education and advocacy.
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