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Alaska Judge Rules In Favor Of Oil, Gas Drilling In Wildlife Refuge

An Alaska judge has ruled against a request for an injunction against a lease sale in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska scheduled for today, letting the tender proceed.

The AP reports that District Judge Sharon Gleason motivated her decision with failure on the part of the plaintiffs—environmentalists and Native American communities—to show the likelihood of harm, which is a necessary prerequisite for an injunction.

The Trump administration first floated plans to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil and gas drilling last year, as part of its energy self-sufficiency agenda. The news understandably caused an outcry among environmental groups and some Native American communities.

The Alaska Wilderness League reported last year that 70 percent of Americans are against oil and gas drilling in the ANWR, adding, “The world remains mired in a global pandemic and the oil markets are experiencing continued volatility, yet this administration has once again opted to barrel forward with unnecessarily aggressive oil and gas development.”

It is questionable what interest the industry will have in the lease sale, however. Growing pressure from investors for greater environmental responsibility is one reason, and another is bank’s pullout from funding Arctic oil and gas exploration projects, limiting the industry’s access to financing.

Although Judge Gleason’s decision will be disappointing for environmentalists, she did leave a door open for an injunction in case the Bureau of Land Management approved, as part of the lease sale, “ground-disturbing activities” before the Judge had ruled on several lawsuits lodged by environmental groups against the federal government’s oil and gas drilling plans in the ANWR, the AP reported.

Meanwhile, the BLM reported that the federal government had finalized a plan to open up more land for oil and gas drilling in the Alaska Petroleum Reserve, with a total 8.6 million acres to be included.

By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com

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