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Kevin Slater is a co-owner of Mahoosuc Guide Service in Newry.
“As communities deal with the escalating costs of climate change, it is more important than ever that we create a robust national plan to improve resiliency to help those on the front lines. We must strengthen our nation’s commitment to tackling the consequences of this growing threat,” Sen. Susan Collins said in a recent statement. As a Maine business owner, I’m thankful to have a senator who recognizes the devastating impacts climate change is having on our communities – in Maine and across the world – and for her forward-looking work to tackle climate destruction and bring us into a clean energy future.
One place Sen. Collins has worked hard to protect over her tenure is the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska – ground zero for climate impacts. The Arctic is warming four times faster than the rest of the world. If we let drilling happen in the refuge, entire coastal villages will continue to erode into the sea, permafrost melt will increasingly make infrastructure insecure or impossible, and food sources will disappear. Permafrost also stores half of the organic carbon in the world’s soils. More greenhouse gasses are emitted when it thaws, further heating the planet and putting pipelines and roads at high risk. Producing and burning Arctic Refuge oil would accelerate climate change not just for Arctic communities, but for the world.
As a Maine business with ties to the Arctic, I have seen firsthand the impacts of climate change both at home and in the Arctic. The changes I noticed just last summer as I guided a 10 day canoe trip on the Canning River through the refuge were dramatic.
According to the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, “Any further delay in concerted anticipatory global action will miss a brief and rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a livable and sustainable future for all.” If we want to meet the degree of warming deadlines scientists have been warning us about for decades, we cannot start new projects that expand fossil fuel development.
Fossil fuel extraction on public lands accounts for nearly a quarter of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. What’s more, oil and gas companies already have decades worth of oil and gas leases (millions of acres) stockpiled and thousands of drilling permits sitting on the shelf – they don’t need more.
On top of the climate implications, drilling in the refuge doesn’t make financial sense nor will it help reduce oil prices for the American public or increase America’s energy independence because production would not happen anytime soon. Building the infrastructure to extract oil from the coastal plain of the Arctic Refuge would take decades to complete.
The remote nature of the refuge, combined with the fragile tundra, makes drilling in the Arctic Refuge an expensive risk that’s not worth taking. Even banks, insurance companies, and oil and gas companies know drilling in the refuge is bad business. In fact, this spring AIG (American International Group, Inc.) became the first U.S. insurance company to issue a policy stating that it will not underwrite or support investments for any new Arctic energy exploration activities. This significant step by a U.S. insurance company follows 29 major financial institutions (including five major U.S. banks) and 12 international insurers who have restricted support for oil and gas drilling in the refuge. Additionally, no major oil and gas company bid on leases during last year’s abysmal lease sale, which only raised a minuscule fraction of what it was projected to raise.
I encourage Collins to continue to stand with the nearly 70 percent of voters in the United States who oppose drilling in the Arctic Refuge and align with the long-held, popular, and bipartisan support for permanent protection of the Arctic Refuge. I’m thankful Sen. Collins has consistently supported efforts to protect the Arctic Refuge and urge her to restore protections for this special place through the budget reconciliation effort and oppose any attempt to block such protections.