Gexas Energy and others are seeking to drill in the controversial National Wildlife Refranchise in Alaska.
The US Interior Department last year awarded a permit to drill under the waters of the Alaskan National Wildlife refuge for up to 4,000 barrels per day of oil and gas production.
But the permit, which has been renewed by the US Department of the Interior (DOI), has been plagued by legal challenges.
Since the DOI’s approval of the drilling plan in November, a group of Alaskans, including some with experience in the drilling industry, have sued the DOI, claiming it is “unconstitutional” and violates the US Constitution’s protection of “natural rights.”
They have called the permit a violation of the rights of the Native Americans of Alaska.
In a court filing Monday, the lawsuit argued that the DOI should allow Gexan Energy to drill and that the company should not drill in protected waters under the refuge.
“The DOI is violating the First Amendment rights of Alaska Native tribes by granting permits for oil and natural gas drilling in the refuge and its waters,” the lawsuit states.
“The DOI has violated the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment right to due process by allowing Gexana Energy to obtain a permit under the Alaska National Wildlife Reclamation Act, which does not protect the tribes rights to fish and hunt in the sanctuary and does not adequately protect endangered fish species in the Alaska Refuge.”
“In addition, the DOI has failed to adequately protect Alaskas fish and wildlife,” the suit continues.
“Alaskans and Alaska natives have suffered substantial harm by the DOI granting permits to Gexanas oil and mineral exploration and development.”
The lawsuit also states that the “DOI is in violation of Section 230(c)(3) of the Communications Decency Act, the Alaska Constitution, the US Government Code, the Federal Communications Commission Act, and other laws.”
“We are concerned that the government has violated Alaskanas rights under the US Constitutions Constitutional rights and has violated Native American tribes’ rights under federal law,” the Alaska Native Environmental Network said in a statement.
“As a result of the DOI decision, Alaskns’ right to fish, hunt, and fish and game will be severely restricted, including the right to the protection of Alsegee Bay.”
The Alaska National Environmental Council issued a statement Monday calling on the US Congress to pass a law to stop the “continued violation of Alaska’s Constitution and the rights to hunt, fish, and hunt, which will have a significant impact on Alaskana Native and Alaskanna salmon.”
A spokesperson for Gexaa Energy did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
According to the lawsuit, the Interior Department and DOI have violated federal law by granting the permit to GEXa Energy without considering the “significant harm” that the oil and mining companies are causing to endangered species and their habitat.
The suit also states the permit could put Alaska’s fish and bird populations at risk and could put Alaskandans at risk of “a catastrophic climate change event,” which could lead to the extinction of the Alaska Natives.
This is not the first time a company has sought to drill below the waters near the refuge, and the lawsuit claims the Interior DOI has been given “a green light to proceed without due process.”
Last year, an Alaska Native tribe filed a lawsuit against the US government claiming that the Department of Interior “has violated the Alaska Nation Treaty by allowing oil and minerals exploration and drilling within the Alaska refuge without a proper permit.”
In June, a lawsuit filed by the Natives of Alaska and Washington State argued that “the DOI’s decision to grant permits to drill beneath the Alaska Wildlife Refuge, which extends from the shores of the Arctic Ocean to the coast of Washington State, is a violation to the US constitution.”
It’s not the only legal battle brewing over the proposal.
Earlier this year, the State of Alaska filed a legal challenge to a proposed oil and oil extraction project on the state’s west coast.
A court filing by the Alaska State Law Enforcement Agency (ASLEA) claimed that the project, which would include the drilling of up to 2,000 wells, would be “unconscionable” and could violate the Alaska and US Constitution.
The law enforcement agency filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit on June 22, saying the lawsuit is without merit.
Meanwhile, environmental groups have slammed the DOI for allowing the drilling to go ahead.
Environmentalists and Alaska’s Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) released a statement in support of the lawsuit.
“These lawsuits are just another example of the Obama administration and the DOI disregarding the protections of the US and Alassas constitution in their quest to exploit the vast reserves of oil, natural gas, and coal in the northern part of Alaska,” the statement said.
“While this is not a