Washington Journal of Environmental Law & Policy


Trisna Tanus


The potential for oil production in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) coastal plain, otherwise known as the 1002 Area, is significant, with a current value of $770 billion. Yet, there are considerable knowledge gaps and disagreements over the environmental impacts of oil development in ANWR. The Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) manages ANWR and is tasked with advancing the refuge’s mission of ecological conservation. Before it can approve oil development in ANWR, the FWS is statutorily required to ensure that oil development is compatible with ANWR’s mission. This Comment argues that the precautionary principle is embedded within the laws governing FWS management of ANWR. Simply, the precautionary principle is “foresight planning,” in that it demands proactive prevention of potentially serious threats to human health and the environment. Therefore, until sufficient scientific information demonstrates oil development is compatible with ecological conservation, the FWS must proceed with caution and prohibit oil development in ANWR’s 1002 Area.

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