More than 300 scientists nationwide, almost a quarter of them Alaskans, have blasted the Interior Department’s assessment of proposed oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as inadequate.

A four-page letter, released Thursday by the National Audubon Society, criticizes the draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) for drilling of the refuge’s 1002 area issued in December. Congress approved a drilling plan in December 2017, after it was added to a sweeping tax-reform bill; last summer, Sen. Lisa Murkowski said the state had seen “no greater victory” in the decades-long effort to open ANWR to energy exploration.

Alaskans’ public comments last month to Bureau of Land Management officials on the DEIS were mixed. At a meeting on how drilling would affect Kaktovik residents, environmental concerns were countered by calls for the state’s economic development. The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported that protesters took over another meeting, questioning both the short notice on which it was held and the lack of consultation with Alaska Natives in the process.

According to Thursday’s letter, signed by a total of 312 scientists, the DEIS falls short on 10 distinct points ranging from a failure to assess cumulative impacts to not offering “a reasonable range of alternatives.” The letter claims that the draft statement doesn’t properly reconcile the refuge’s two conflicting missions.

“Notwithstanding the legislative addition of an oil and gas program to the refuge’s purposes, the DEIS must explain how the original refuge purposes of water and fish and wildlife conservation will be upheld in the face of fossil fuel development,” the letter read.

The letter also questions a lack of environmental assessment for millions of gallons of water which would be brought into the area as part of exploration. In addition, it asks how federal authorities would track or enforce a 2,000-acre limit on drilling production and support facilities, and says that destroying the refuge’s scientific value as a baseline Arctic wilderness would be “an irreplaceable loss of international significance.”

The 73 Alaska signers of the letter, including dozens from University of Alaska campuses or who worked at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, include:

Lisa Baraff, M.S., Fairbanks
Julia Bevins, B.V.Sc., Ph.D., Anchorage
Karen Bollinger, M.S., Fairbanks
Michael Boylan, M.S., USFWS (retired), Eagle River
Zachary Brown, Ph. D., Inian Islands Institute, Gustavus
F. Stuart Chapin III, Ph.D., UAF, Fairbanks
John Coady, Ph.D., Fish and Game (retired), Fairbanks
Karen Colligan-Taylor, Ph.D., UAF, Gustavus
Susan Culliney, M.S., Audubon Alaska, Anchorage
Jim Dau, M.S., Fish and Game (retired), Kotzebue
Natalie G. Dawson, Ph.D., Audubon Alaska, Anchorage
Anthony R. DeGange, M.S., Chugiak
Dirk V. Derksen, Ph.D., U.S. Geological Survey (retired), Anchorage
Stanley G. Edwin, M.S. candidate, CATG atmospheric researcher, Fairbanks
Lois Epstein, M.S., The Wilderness Society, Anchorage
Eugenie Euskirchen, Ph.D., UAF, Fairbanks
Jeff Fair, M.S., Fairwinds Wildlife Services, Palmer
Timothy Fullman, Ph.D., Anchorage
H. River Gates, M.S., National Audubon Society, Anchorage
Max Goldman, M.S., Audubon Alaska, Anchorage
Jenna Hamm, M.S., Denali National Park Wilderness Centers, Denali National Park
Scott Hatch, Ph.D., Institute for Seabird Research and Conservation, Anchorage
Ted Heuer, M.S., National Wildlife Refuge System (retired), Homer
Mary Hogan, M.S., USFWS (retired), Anchorage
John Hudson, M.S., Juneau
Katrin Iken, Ph.D., UAF, Fairbanks
David B. Irons, Ph.D., Anchorage
Randi Jandt, M.S., Fairbanks
Marci Johnson, M.S., Auke Bay
Jill Johnstone, Ph.D., UAF, Fairbanks
Janet C. Jorgenson, M.S., USFWS (retired), Fairbanks
M. Torre Jorgenson, M.S., H.D.S., Alaska Ecoscience, Fairbanks
James G. King, honorary Ph.D. from UAS, USFWS (retired), Juneau
Matthew Kirchhoff, M.S., Anchorage
David R. Klein, Ph.D., UAF, Fairbanks
Stephen Klobucar, Ph.D., UAF, Fairbanks
Brenda Konar, Ph.D., UAF, Fairbanks
Robert R. Leedy, M.S., USFWS (retired), Eagle River
Ryan A. Marsh, M.S., Fairbanks
Philip D. Martin, M.S., USFWS (retired), Fairbanks
Francis Mauer, M.S., Arctic Refuge Wildlife Biologist (retired), Fairbanks
Rosa H. Meehan, M.S., Ph.D., USFWS (retired), Anchorage
Peter G. Mickelson, Ph.D., UAF, Fairbanks
Franz Mueter, Ph.D., UAF, Juneau
Kristian Nattinger, M.S., Scammon Bay
Dan Rapp, M.S., Soldotna
Martha Raynolds, Ph.D., UAF, Fairbanks
John Rose, M.S., environmental consultant (retired), Fairbanks
Aurora Roth, M.S., UAF, Fairbanks
Scott L. Schliebe, B.S., USFWS (retired), Anchorage
John W. Schoen, Ph.D., Fish and Game, Audubon Alaska (both retired), Anchorage
Jeffrey Short, Ph.D., NOAA Fisheries (retired), Juneau
E. LaVerne Smith, M.S., USFWS (retired), Anchorage
Melanie Smith, M.S., National Audubon Society, Anchorage
Winston P. Smith, Ph.D., UAF, Fairbanks
Emily Sousa, M.S., UAF, Fairbanks
Derek Stonorov, M.S., Homer
Benjamin K. Sullender, M.S., Anchorage
Christin Swearingen, M.S., UAF, Anchorage
Michael S. Taylor, M.S., Gustavus
Audrey R. Taylor, Ph.D., UAA, Anchorage
Wenfei Tong, Ph.D., UAA, Anchorage
John Trent, Ph.D., USFWS (retired), Fish and Game, Kenai
Nils Warnock, Ph.D., Anchorage
Jesse Weber, Ph.D., UAA, Anchorage
Alex Webster, Ph.D., Fairbanks
Kenneth Whitten, M.S., Fish and Game (retired), Fairbanks
Teri C. Wild, M.S., Fairbanks
John M. Wright, M.S., Fish and Game (retired), Fairbanks
Julia York, M.S., Fairbanks
Alison D. York, Ph.D., Fairbanks
Sarah M. Youngren, M.S., Soldotna
Jenna Zechmann, M.S., UAF, Fairbanks

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