Podcast Episode September 25, 2019

Episode 17 | Journalist Adam Federman on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Part I




Jimmy Carter created the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in 1980, and it’s been a contentious subject ever since. A bonanza of biodiversity, the ANWR also potentially sits atop one of America’s last untapped oil reserves. In this episode, Andrew talks to Adam Federman, a journalist covering the recent push by the Trump administration to lease oil and gas rights in the refuge. Adam is a reporting fellow with Type Investigations, where he’s spent the last few years covering energy, public land, and the Trump administration’s environmental policies.

His recent piece “How Science got Trampled in the Rush to Drill in the Arctic” caught our eye when it ran in Politico in July of 2019. We immediately reached out to Adam for a chat about this developing issue as well as a larger conversation about public land policy in the United States.

You can read the final Environmental Impact Statement here.


  • What is the ANWR?
    • How was it created?
    • Why can Congress determine the fate of the coastal plain?
    • Why is the ANWR important ecologically and why is it attractive to mining interests?
      • A rare ecological gem
      • The North Slope is famous for its oil and gas resources
    • The Refuge is surrounded by oil and gas development
  • Tax Cuts and Jobs Act
    • How did an oil and gas leasing provision end up in that bill?
    • Lisa Murkowski and Senate math
    • Lisa Murkowski’s father Frank Murkowski
    • In the past, moderate Republicans have kicked back against opening the Refuge
    • Opening the Refuge to oil and gas exploration and extraction is an official policy agenda item for the Trump administration
  • Environmental reviews
  • What are the ramifications of a speedy or incomplete review?
    • This EIS initiates the lease sale
    • Roads
    • Landing strips
    • Polar bear populations
    • Ecosystem threats
  • Allegations from scientists that findings have been altered or omitted in the seismic survey EIS
    • Polar bears
    • Native communities
    • Distorted findings
    • DOI statements
    • Joe Balash and David Bernhardt
  • The BLM vs Fish and Wildlife
    • The language of the Tax Act changed management
  • This isn’t the first time findings about the Refuge have omitted from the public record
    • Bush administration, but many of the same players
    • Bernhardt’s recent confirmation hearings
  • Bernhardt represented Alaska in a lawsuit against the DOI as a private attorney in 2013/14
    • Bernhardt’s role in ANWR
  • The atmosphere at DOI – what do we know based on investigative results?
    • Brain drain
    • DOI HR culture
    • Relocation of headquarters
    • Reluctance of personnel to go on the record
    • Career scientists who’ve served multiple administrations
    • Relationship between the administration and career scientists
  • Trump administration policy and actions re: public land management
    • Reducing rules and regulations that govern oil and gas development
    • Reversing or repealing Obama administration regulation
    • Increasing public land sales and resource leasing
    • How much of this damage is reversible?
    • The dismantling of departments
    • Trump administration vs. public lands stakeholders vs. industry
  • Native communities and public land development
    • Conflict between native communities overplayed
  • The documents are public…
    • **NOTE** At the end of the podcast Adam mentions that the public comment period is still open. That was a misstatement – Adam followed up later via email. He says, “There’s a 30 day window between the release of the final EIS and the Record of Decision. During that time DOI can make additional changes to the document.” As of publication, we are currently in that 30 day window. If you care about this issue, talk to your Congress people!


Feedback, Questions, Tips?


  • Backpacking Light – Executive Producer
  • Ryan Jordan – Director and Host
  • Andrew Marshall – Producer, Host, and Editor
  • Guest — Adam Federman
  • Look for Me in the Mountains – Music

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