INUPIAT ESKIMOS AND GREENPEACE GO TO COURT TO CHALLENGE BP AMOCO OIL DRILLING IN THE ARCTIC OCEAN
Lawsuit filed to protect the Climate and Subsistence Culture in the Alaskan Arctic
October 21st, 1999 – Greenpeace today joined Inupiat Eskimos living on Alaska’s North Slope to file a lawsuit to challenge BP Amoco's drilling for oil in the Arctic Ocean off Alaska’s north coast. The groups and individuals are taking the court action to protect the earth’s climate from the dangerous release of greenhouse gases from continued production and burning of fossil fuels, and to protect the traditional Inupiat subsistence culture, which is critically dependent on the marine and coastal resources of the Arctic Ocean.
The lawsuit involves BP Amoco’s Northstar project, the first offshore oil project proposed for the Arctic Ocean. The suit challenges the federal government for permitting the project on the grounds that it lacks an adequate oil spill plan and jeopardizes the marine and coastal environment of the Arctic Ocean, and the Inupiat subsistence way of life.
“This lawsuit is about stopping global warming at its source by stopping the irresponsible oil drilling in the Arctic Ocean,” said Steve Sawyer, Greenpeace campaigner. “The science of climate change tells us that we cannot afford to burn even one-quarter of all known fossil fuel reserves without risking dangerous levels of global warming. Against this backdrop, it is irresponsible for the federal government to allow BP Amoco to open this new oil frontier to drilling,” he said.
The Western Arctic is warming three to five times faster than the global average, , which is consistent with scientific predictions that global will affect the polar regions first.
“Sunakkiniagniq Inuuniaqusiqput. Our life is our subsistence,” said Charles Edwardsen, Jr, an Inupiat Eskimo who resides in Barrow, Alaska. For thousands of years, the Inupiat people have depended upon the Arctic Ocean for the whales, seals, fish and polar bears that give us sustenance. The Arctic Ocean is our garden, and we cannot afford to have it contaminated by oil spills and industrialization. This lawsuit is about protecting our subsistence resources and culture for our children”.
If allowed to be built, BP Amoco's Northstar project would drill for oil from an artificial island six miles off Alaska’s north coast. Oil would be transported ashore in a pipeline buried only six feet beneath the seabed. The safety of subsea pipelines are untested and unproven in the Arctic Ocean, an environment of solid or broken ice for more than nine months of the year, of extreme temperatures, harsh storms and months of darkness. If the Northstar project is built, it opens the door for several other offshore drilling projects, and for leases and drilling throughout the entire Beaufort Sea. Opening this new oil frontier will have grave consequences for the climate, the Arctic environment, and the people who depend upon it.
The petition was filed against the Minerals Management Service in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco, California.
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