Halts Seismic Surveys for Oil in Alaska’s Arctic Refuge

Polar bears snuggling, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. (Photo USFWS)
The company that applied for permission to conduct the survey, failed to do the required work with identifying polar bear dens in the region to be surveyed. (Photo: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

The company proposing to survey parts of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge's coastal plain missed a deadline for its plan to protect polar bears during the survey.

Plans for seismic surveys to help find oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) have fizzled due to lack of protection for polar bears, according to a brief statement from the Department of the Interior on Saturday, Reuters reports.

Kaktovik Inupiat Corp (KIC), the Alaska Native-owned company that applied for permission to conduct the survey, failed to do the required work to identify polar bear dens in the region to be surveyed, Interior spokeswoman Melissa Schwartz said in an emailed statement.

Identification of den sites was required for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department to grant KIC an incidental harassment authorization, a permit that would allow seismic operations near polar bears, Schwartz said.

KIC had planned, through its contractor SAExploration, to conduct seismic surveys on 352,416 acres within the refuge’s coastal plain. The company missed a February 13th deadline to perform its aerial den-detection work, Schwartz said.

The January 6th ANWR lease sale drew qualifying bids for only 11 tracts, most from an Alaska state-owned agency that was participating as a backstop in case oil companies did not submit bids. President Joseph Biden and Interior Secretary-designee Deb Haaland oppose oil development in the refuge.

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