Statement: ExxonMobil tells shareholders: no plans to drill in the Arctic

Media Contacts
Ellen Montgomery

Director, Public Lands Campaign, Environment America Research & Policy Center

DENVER– ExxonMobil informed its shareholders last week that the company has no plans for new oil and gas exploration or development in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge or the rest of the arctic region.  In response to a shareholder resolution asking the company to report on the impact of arctic drilling, ExxonMobil responded “ExxonMobil does not hold any active leases and is not pursuing any active developments within the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.” The coastal plain is the calving ground of the porcupine caribou herd, important habitat for migratory birds and is sacred to the Gwich’in people.

The oil company also shared that “[ExxonMobil’s] current investment plans do not include exploration activity within the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program (AMAP) region, and we plan relatively limited investment to sustain our existing interests in the region.” The AMAP region includes the western Arctic, the area where the Willow Project is located. The Biden administration recently announced plans for a process that could protect up to 13 millions acres of land there, including the Teshekpuk Lake area, which is also a critical habitat for caribou and other wildlife.

There was a lease sale held for tracts on the coastal plain 2021 with only one oil company participating. The Congressional Budget Office had projected revenues from arctic refuge lease sales at $1.8 billion but the 2021 sale raised just over $14 million, less than 1 percent of the projected revenue. Since 2021, all but one leaseholder has pulled out of the refuge and Chevron and Hilcorp paid $10 million to exit their lease for a test well in a different area of the Arctic Refuge. 

In 2017, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act opened the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to fossil fuel development by establishing an oil and gas leasing program including two lease sales to be held by 2024. To end the program, Congress must pass a new law or the protection status of the coastal plain must be changed by the Biden administration. 

In response to these announcements, Environment America Research & Policy Center public lands campaign director Ellen Montgomery issued the following statement:

“Chevron, Hilcorp and 88 Energy canceled their Arctic Refuge leases last year and now ExxonMobil has told their shareholders that they have no plan to drill in the refuge. Luckily for the caribou, polar bears and migratory birds that live there, plans to drill in this natural wonder could become a thing of the past. Since oil companies are not showing up to drill, it’s time for Congress and the Biden administration to listen to the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have called for permanently protecting this special place.”