Governor Palin’s sudden resignation will undoubtedly have consequences for Alaska, the United State’s Arctic outpost. Her tenure in the Last Frontier was marked by strong support for the oil and gas industry and a disdain for environmental protection in the Arctic.
Above all, her resignation will likely have environmental advocates cheering. Palin favored drilling in the ANWR, which she at one point said was “ripe for exploration.” She also promoted developing the outer continental shelf (OCS), where currently 80% of the area is off-limits to drilling. Last June, she wrote this letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, stating her belief in the urgent need to open up the ANWR and OCS to drilling. In fact, it was Palin’s understanding that drilling could actually avert climate change. She remarked, “stopping domestic energy production of preferred fuels does not solve the issues associated with global warming and threatened or endangered species, but it can make them worse.”
Additionally, under Palin’s governorship, the state of Alaska sued the Department of the Interior for listing the polar bear as an endangered species. Palin argued that there was no need to list the bears as endangered based on “a comprehensive review by state wildlife officials of scientific information from a broad range of climate, ice and polar bear experts.” So polar bears might now get a bit of reprieve, with their endangered status no longer endangered itself. Beluga whales had also been threatened by her governorship, as Palin did not want to protect their habitat around Cook Inlet in order to allow oil and gas drilling to move forward.
Of course, if the new Lieutenant Governor keeps Palin’s Arctic agenda, we can expect more moves in favor of commercialization of the Arctic, rather than environmental protection.
After several days, Palin has finally resurfaced in the little town of Kotzebue, thirty miles north of the Arctic Circle. Here, she was scheduled to sign a bill to increase the amount of public safety officers in rural Alaskan towns. So polar bears, beluga whales, and residents of sleepy Arctic towns can now all sleep a little sounder.