RELEASE: CAP Analysis Shows How a Lack of Water Supply Could Prevent Drilling in the Arctic Refuge

Washington, D.C. — As the Trump administration prepares to hold an oil and gas lease sale in the Arctic Refuge this year, a new analysis from the Center for American Progress raises serious questions about the prospect of any oil company being able to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge due to the lack of a much-needed water supply.

Oil drilling in the Arctic would require an extraordinary amount of water—millions of gallons to build ice roads and ice pads, for well stimulation and production, and to supply workers’ base camps. Yet unlike other areas on Alaska’s North Slope, free-flowing water is limited in the Arctic Refuge’s coastal plain.

The Trump administration is counting on oil companies’ ability to build a massive seawater treatment plant on the coast of the Arctic Refuge. But this is a costly and legally dubious proposition. It would require companies to make at least $1 billion in capital investments and clear about a dozen permitting hurdles. These permitting hurdles would offer a new administration additional legal and regulatory leverage to block development from going forward.

“Federal agencies could use their authority and discretion to deny approval of necessary permits, which can effectively block oil projects from moving forward,” said Kate Kelly, director of public lands at CAP. “If the mounting legal challenges don’t stop the Trump administration’s lease sale in the Arctic Refuge, the moral, regulatory, and financial obstacles associated with oil drilling in the refuge—access to fresh water among them—should stop any serious energy company from participating.”

Read the column: “Blocking Access to Scarce Water Supply Can Stop Oil Companies From Drilling the Arctic Refuge” by Kate Kelly, Sally Hardin, and Jenny Rowland-Shea.

For more information or to talk to an expert, please contact Sam Hananel at  or 202-478-6327.