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Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Support for drilling wanes among Inupiat

Julian Borger of the U.K.'s Guardian newspaper reports today that the Inupiat people in Kaktovik, longtime supporters of ANWR drilling, seem to be changing their tune.

Borger visited Kaktovik and reports that, despite the need for jobs there, nearly half the village recently signed a petition against oil exploration. This is a result of a stunning 600 percent increase in respiratory problems, possible due to air pollution from oil production at Prudhoe Bay.

"When the wind blows from the west, a yellow-brown smog goes right across the horizon. In the summer, when I go fishing, it burns my eyes," said Bruce Inglangasak, a Kaktovik resident. "It's not just the air. Every time it rains our fish get it and our whales get it. You can feel the difference when you hold the fish now. The flesh is not as firm as it once was."

Another factor is Alaska Gov. Frank Murkowski's proposal to offer offshore drilling leases off the coast of ANWR, in waters crucial to the Inupiat's traditional whale hunting.

"There's a lot of people changing their mind about this," said Robert Thompson, an Inupiat hunter and guide who is leading the backlash.