WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — Residents of the US state of Alaska who are opposed to the Obama administration’s planned expansion of oil and gas leases off the Alaskan coast will rally on Tuesday at a government hearing in Anchorage, the Center for Biological Diversity told Sputnik.
"Our goal is to tell the Obama administration that the new offshore leasing plan is headed in the wrong direction," Center for Biological Diversity Oceans Director Miyoko Sakashita told Sputnik on Tuesday.
Sakashita noted that the US public is outraged with new leases in the Arctic and Gulf of Mexico "because it will deepen our climate crisis."
Oil drilling around Alaska, she pointed out is especially risky.
"Sea conditions are so unpredictable and really quite severe," she said, adding that the coast’s regular ice storms and 30-foot ocean waves.
An environmental review of the proposed site conducted by the US Department of the Interior last year found a 75 percent chance of an oil spill.
"Keeping oil under the ocean is important for arctic animals," including whales and the salmon that Native Alaskan communities rely on, Sakashita said.
Even without an oil spill or other accident, Sakashita argued, "Native Alaskan communities are on the front lines of climate impact" and it is their livelihoods at risk from the proposed oil and gas leases.
US Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said last month that the Obama administration would consider withdrawing the drilling plan based on public testimony, and emphasized that she wanted to hear from Native Alaskans.
Public pressure has already forced the Interior Department to remove the Atlantic coast from the list of proposed lease sites and the Center wants the Obama administration to halt all new offshore fossil fuel licenses in federal waters.
New drilling, Sakashita said, would undermine Obama’s commitment to limit temperature increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.