Gwich'in leaders travel from Alaska to D.C. opposing ANWR drilling plans

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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) -- Pushback on a plan to explore for oil and gas in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge continues.

Wednesday, nearly 200 people spoke publicly at a hearing in Washington, D.C.

Energy exploration in ANWR is being made possible after the 2017 tax law included language allowing it.

The U.S. Department of Interior's Bureau of Land Management is working to figure out the environmental impact of exploring and drilling in ANWR.

Bernadette Demientieff, the leader of the Gwich'in Steering Committee, said, "We're like under so much stress up in Alaska right now, and it's frustrating that we have to come down here."

She said the Gwich'in lifestyle is sustained by hunting a strong caribou population made up of the Porcupine caribou herd.

She said opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling will push out the caribou, and with that, destroy the Gwich'in food supply.

She said, "People like money, and so do I, but not if it's going to wipe out a whole nation of people, and not if it's going to disturb our future nation's chance at survival."

Kara Moriarty, the CEO of the Alaska Oil and Gas Association, said financial benefits can be found without hurting the region.

Moriarty said, "We can protect the land and have a strong economic base, all of that can co-exist.

Joe Balash, the Department of the Interior Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management said, "We can make sure that we're putting out the best possible package of stipulations and required operating procedures that will allow exploration and development to take place, but also to protect this very important, cultural natural resource being the porcupine caribou."

Visit the BLM website for more information. You can also submit public comment by clicking here. The public comment period ends on March, 13.

A final environmental impact statement is expected this fall.

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