Home / News / Exposed: Chevron Has a Secretive Drilling Site in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Exposed: Chevron Has a Secretive Drilling Site in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

It’s the center of the frigid, prolonged midnight at Tapkaurak Point, a separate of sand curling out into the Beaufort Sea off the northern seashore of Alaska. Up in the center of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the largest remaining forest area in the U.S., the object set weeks ago and won’t demeanour above the setting until the center of January.

If you were there now, bundled up against the minus-20-degree chill, you could mount the low steep at Tapkaurak, spin divided from the solidified sea, and in the low light expel by the moon and the stars you’d take in the expanded arctic plain giving way to the hilly Brooks Range to the south. In the center of the plain, if the halo borealis is splendid enough, you competence see poking out of the sleet cover an honest post—physically considerate but definitely out of place in the treeless Arctic landscape.

The post isn’t a pardonable anomaly. It stands as a warning sign for all of us, promotion the ambitions of Big Oil to spin this place from a forest into an industrial distinction mill. Wedged into last month’s $1.5 billion taxation cut law, which advantages mostly the 1 percent, is a sustenance opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to blurb oil drilling.

After decades of being denied entrance to the refuge, the oil companies have achieved a legislative milestone. And absent a transformation of renouned insurgency total with authorised action, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge will join the flourishing list of places around the universe plundered by CEOs and a domestic chosen who put increase before people and the planet. We can and must stop them.

Fourteen summers ago we was advantageous to revisit Tapkaurak Point, and saw up close what the future binds for the retreat if Trump, Congress and Big Oil get their way. we landed my boat at Tapkaurak toward the finish of a two-week Arctic retreat paddling outing with 3 friends. We had left down the Kongakut River and along the Beaufort seashore toward the encampment of Kaktovik, nearing at Tapkaurak late in the dusk in mid-July. We ascended the bluff. To the north, the sand tidelands of the separate gave way to a lagoon, restrained by a prolonged slight reef. Beyond the embankment lay the Beaufort container ice. To the south of us widespread miles of arctic plain, sedge weed illuminated up in shining bullion by the midnight sun. Beyond, the peaks of the Brooks Range, wearing a new cloak of white snow, stood out resolutely against the blue sky. And then we saw the post.


We walked toward it, by marshy fields of just-thawed permafrost dotted with tufts of wispy Alaska string and bladder campion—a audacious purple-and-pink-striped Japanese lantern-shaped flower just a few inches high. Red-necked phalaropes, readying for their late-summer moody to South America, bathed in tiny pools of water.

Alaska string is abounding in the Arctic tundra regions. Oil and gas growth strips the landscape of foliage and in the Arctic, destroys permafrost. (image: Jonathan Rosenblum)

The ethereal bladder campion is a singly designed wildflower that blooms in late spring. (image: Jonathan Rosenblum)

The tufts of sand pushed up by permafrost were laced with tiny animal holes, and the snowy owl feathers sparse around were justification that the birds had been sport recently. The thousands of caribou who spend summers on the Arctic seashore had already headed south into the Brooks Range, but sprinkled around the plain were antlers—shed after calving season, or maybe the ruins of animals taken by predators.

Approaching the post we saw that it was a plain iron column, welded with the letters, “CHEVRON USA INC.” This was the KIC-1 drilling site, the secretive test good Chevron was allowed to cavalcade in 1986. Crews wearied 3 miles down, at a cost of $40 million, before capping the site, dismantling the drilling platform, and going home.

Chevron’s KIC-1 post at the company’s secretive test well. (image: Jonathan Rosenblum)

Chevron’s KIC-1 post, seen in front of the Brooks Mountain Range in northern Alaska (image: Jonathan Rosenblum)


Chevron executives know what the good found, but they aren’t telling. Years ago, a justice gave the company the right to secrete the information from the public.

Even with Chevron’s explain to have remediated the site, half-buried construction rabble surrounds the post: Metal cans and grating, cloth, wood, and potion bottles, all of it ever-so-slowly deteriorating in the cold, dry Arctic. Trash does not compost up there—it lingers on.

Compared to the surrounding permafrost marshes, which were plentiful with grasses, flowers, and low shrubs, the land around the drilling site was mostly a unclothed brown, compressed from the weight of complicated vehicles and machine that visited a era earlier.

A brief way to the south, some-more shapes rose from the plain. We slogged opposite the muddy belligerent to investigate. These weren’t test drilling holes. It was an old Inupiat graveyard. The grave markers, in several stages of decay, were done of wood. “Raymond Nanolo, Dead Aug 12 1933.” Another, name undistinguishable, had a 1922 date on it. They were trappers and hunters, people with extensive ingenuity, independence and stamina who walked easily on the land, as their ancestors had for the last 3,000 years.

The next night, as we launched the boats off the sand of Tapkaurak Point and headed west, we looked back at the arctic plain and the iron post. It was a tiny pinprick on the immeasurable horizon. But even this tiny human examination had left an memorable symbol on the land, with its trashed-out site and empty ground.

What Trump and Congress aim to do is take the human drop at Tapkaurak’s KIC-1 site and enhance it by many orders of magnitude. Even with new technologies like plane drilling, oil and gas prolongation is a big deal, requiring absolute drills nipping by the earth, unconstrained miles of pipes and electrical delivery lines reaching over the horizon, and slurries of sand and other waste. And then there are accidents.

For comparison, you could just demeanour 120 miles west of Tapkaurak, at the Prudhoe Bay oil fields and the 800-mile tube that extends from the fields to the south by Alaska. Those fields and tube at one indicate averaged 500 oil spills a year.

It’s no consternation that 70 percent of Americans, including a infancy of Republicans, conflict drilling in the Arctic refuge.  

The Trump administration’s Christmas present isn’t dictated for anyone but a very slight rope of one percenters—Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, who conditioned her taxation check “aye” opinion to the Arctic drilling proviso, and the CEOs and major shareholders of Big Oil, who slobber at the thought of opening up the Arctic retreat to their profiteering.

Yet even with the thoroughfare of the law, insurgency is not futile; indeed, it must be redoubled and join up with other fights to save the sourroundings from oil profiteers. Two years ago, Shell Oil executives, confronting a flourishing transformation of mounting, artistic protests and disastrous publicity, pulled their drilling operations out of the western Alaskan Chukchi Sea.

The Native American-led DefundDAPL transformation has persuaded cities, organizations, tribes and people to repel some-more than $4 billion from Wells Fargo Bank given of its appropriation of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Three European banks pulled their appropriation for DAPL after the mass demonstrations at Standing Rock.

Now, a extended bloc of Native American and First Nation activists, including the DefundDAPL leadership, has launched a divestment campaign directed at funders of due connect sands pipelines in Canada. Through approach actions, including belligerent bank bureau takeovers, the transformation is building open recognition and dire banks to secrete collateral from these controversial projects.

Activist leaders commend the need for hardball tactics.

“Big Oil, multinational corporations, and their financial backers are not swayed by dignified and environmental arguments,” explained Matt Remle, a Lakota Nation personality and co-founder of Mazaska Talks (“Mazaska” is a Lakota word for money). “They’re entrepreneur and they are swayed by one thing, money.”

Just last month, activists pushed the Los Angeles City Council to invalidate Wells Fargo from doing business with the city.

These protest movements, led by local peoples and environmental groups like 350.org, are just getting going.

Now, with the latest congressional action, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge joins the list of places to urge with organizing, boycotts and approach action, in further to authorised challenges.

Big Oil and their domestic congregation are counting on the reality that few people outward of the local Inupiat and the occasional boat traveller will ever get a possibility to mount at Tapkaurak Point and take in the fame of the surrounding wilderness, or mount in wordless astonishment in the funeral belligerent of a people who lived in peace with the arctic given before the time of King Solomon, Jesus of Nazareth, or the Prophet Mohammed. Only a handful of us will ever spy that meaningful totem station in the nearby stretch of the Arctic plain, warning us that this all could go divided in a handful of years.

But you don’t have to go there to commend that what’s at interest is a lot some-more than the risk of scarred ground, busted vistas, foul gravesites, and a soiled wilderness. Rather, the drop of the Arctic retreat would mount as a totem to the delight of the entrepreneur drive for distinction over the benevolent stewardship of the planet. We must not let that happen.

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