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The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska contains an area commonly referred to as the 1002 area. This area contains millions barrels of oil but is currently protected from oil development by Congress. Many groups support opening the 1002 area for development, including the state of Alaska and the Bush administration. Those opposing any potential oil development include the Canadian government and the Gwich'in Indians. Were Congress to open the 1002 area for development, Canada and the Gwich'in would probably take legal action to prevent potential harms associated with the drilling. Both Canada and the Gwich 'in are concerned primarily with the negative effects oil development could have on the Porcupine Caribou herd, which the Gwich'in subsist on. Canada's legal responses could include a suit against any oil companies and/or the United States government for direct environmental harm occurring in Canada as a result of the drilling. This suit could be brought using the Trial Smelter arbitration as precedent. Canada's second suit could be against the United States for damages stemming from America's violation of an existing bilateral treaty by permitting drilling. The Gwich'in could sue the oil companies under traditional environmental tort law for any environmental damages to the 1002 area and the Porcupine Caribou herd that result from the drilling. The Gwich 'in could also negotiate or arbitrate with the United States government regarding environmental damages under the Trail Smelter precedent, but only if the Gwich'in are recognized as a sovereign nation.

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College of Law






Northern Illinois University Law Review

Suggested Citation

Michael T. Delcomyn, Comment, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge Oil: Canadian and Gwich'in Indian Legal Responses to 1002 Area Development, 24 N. Ill. U. L. Rev. 789 (2004).

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