Public Comment on Draft EIS Oil and Gas Project on Coastal Plain of Arctic Refuge

My public comment on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Oil and Gas Project on the Coastal Plain of Arctic National Wildlife Refuge:

Re: DOI-BLM-AK-0000-2018-0002-EIS (Coastal Plain Oil and Gas Leasing EIS)

Lindsay Carron
Attn: Coastal Plain Oil and Gas Leasing Program EIS,
Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Coastal Plain Oil and Gas Leasing Program.  I am Lindsay Carron, an artist who has spent significant time in the Arctic Refuge and surrounding Arctic areas as an artist in residence with US Fish and Wildlife Service.  Throughout the past three years of travels, I have spent time in the backcountry, camping in the wilderness, and visiting Gwich’in and Inupiaq villages of Kaktovik, Arctic Village, Fort Yukon, and Beaver.  From these experiences, I create artwork that ties together all that I have learned about the ecosystems, resources, animal, plant, bird, and fish life, and the way the people have interacted with the land and its inhabitants for thousands of years.  Due to these experiences, I have achieved a very unique point of view around the ecosystems and ways of life in Arctic, Alaska – one that incorporates both science and traditional views – and these experiences give me the clear vision and credentials to comment today on the DEIS.  In addition to my comments, I have included three reference images of my artwork developed as an artist in residence over these three years, clearly demonstrating the inextricable connection between animal, land, water and human, and the positive and sustainable ways that the Gwich’in and Inupiaq people have cared for this land for thousands of years.
To begin, I understand that our current infrastructure depends on oil and fossil fuels.  I also believe that it is far too large a risk to consider this drilling project on the Coastal Plain of the Arctic Refuge as a viable resource.  This land is massively vulnerable and unpredictable, and we ALL risk losing this vibrant, intact ecosystem and the many species that depend on it for life.
I am concerned over the expedited rate of proposed seismic testing and building when no studies have shown what effects might be in store for this particular section of land in the Arctic and this particular demographic of species – the denning polar bears, already drastically at risk of extinction, the Porcupine Caribou herd which behaves uniquely from the Central Arctic herd and cannot be assumed to react in the same way as this herd has to oil drilling, and the millions of migratory birds from around the world that utilize this land every year.  This issue expands beyond the animal species that rely on this slice of land.  It is also an issue that powerfully impacts both the Inupiaq and Gwich’in people who rely on this land for subsistence and spiritual practices and their way of life.  BLM concludes that there will not be an impact on the subsistence resources for the people, but there is no evidence to support this claim.  The drilling is proposed to happen in the Porcupine Caribou calving grounds.  Impact on this herd is imminent, and the surrounding tribes have a right to food security, yet they do not qualify for an 810 hearing under ANILCA which is required if a project will substantially affect subsistence.  This is a human rights violation.  Instead, both the Gwich’in and Inupiaq people should be allowed this hearing, and at least 1 to 3 years of scientific testing should be done on this specific land to address potential impacts on species and subsistence in addition to other factors such as permafrost, vulnerable and specific plant life, and water quality.
As an artist, I have been positively impacted by my time in the Arctic Refuge and this healthy and vibrant wilderness.  My artwork has touched people of many backgrounds around the United States and world, and many of whom will never get a chance to step foot on these lands themselves.  Oil and gas infrastructure would significantly reduce the profound experience of being surrounded by wilderness.  It would taint and diminish the value of this precious place – a place that welcomes thousands of visitors a year and impacts millions through media, art, and literature.  As an artist who has had my life transformed for the better from this wild place, I do not support oil and gas development on the Coastal Plain of the Arctic Refuge.
Finally, we already know that our fossil fuel usage and carbon emissions are contributing to our warming atmosphere and melting permafrost in the North.  What we don’t know is how much building infrastructure for further extraction and usage of fossil fuels will impact the already melting permafrost, potentially increasing carbon released into the atmosphere and expediting warming.  BLM significantly underestimates carbon emissions from this project and fails to assess how expanding oil and gas development will impact the climate.  Instead of building new extraction infrastructure, my recommendation is that we focus on the drilling sites that are already functioning, making sure they operate at their best and safest capacity, utilizing these resources that will carry us through to a point in which the country is able to do a massive energy overhaul and become sustainable.
Thank you for considering these valid and substantive inquiries into an EIS that simply does not hold up to the risks of this massive project.
Lindsay Carron
March 13, 2019
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May all beings be happy.  May all beings be free.
May we find a way to work together to support healthy and vibrant ecosystems for generations to come.