The place no oil companies want to drill

The Arctic Refuge has been abandoned, for now, by oil companies. Will Congress act to protect it before they return?

Cover photo credit: Pacific Loon reflection by Malkolm Boothroyd

As of this month, there are no oil companies holding drilling leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. This is good news for the arctic and for our work to protect all of our special places from oil drilling.

The Arctic Refuge is home to endangered polar bears and the magnificent 200,000-strong Porcupine Caribou herd, visited by millions of migratory birds from all 50 states and six continents, and a ward against climate change–thanks to all the carbon stored in the refuge’s permafrost.

First, we learned that Chevron and Hilcorp had paid $10 million to terminate their leases in the refuge. This move came after years of environmental community actions focused on Chevron In 2021 and 2022 , Environment America created a video and delivered more than 50,000 petitions calling on the oil company to pledge not to drill in the Arctic Refuge. 

Now, oil companies don’t want to drill there. Banks don’t want to finance drilling there. And insurance companies—including, most recently, AIG—don’t want to insure drilling there. 

This change came about due to the unfavorable economics of drilling in challenging locations, opposition from the indigenous Gwich'in people who call the refuge home, and the environmental community’s success educating and mobilizing green-minded Americans and some of our elected leaders to act to protect the Arctic Refuge from drilling and spilling.

Our national network has worked for decades alongside the Gwich'in and the rest of the environmental community to protect the Arctic Refuge from drilling. And our work is not finished. Because of a provision added to the tax bill in 2017, the Department of the Interior is required to hold another lease sale in the refuge. Congress must act to end the leasing program.