Hawaii & Alaska
via U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

AK - Judge Denies Request to Halt Trump Administration From Issuing Oil Leases in ANWR

A federal judge on Tuesday declined a request by conservation groups to prevent the Trump administration from issuing leases for drilling rights in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, though the broader case that seeks to stop the federal government’s oil and gas program in the refuge has not been decided.

The decision came hours before the federal government was set to hold its first-ever oil lease sale for land in the refuge’s coastal plain, at 10 a.m. Wednesday.

U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason in Anchorage denied the motion in the case brought by National Audubon Society and three other conservation groups. They had argued that the judge should halt leases from being given out until the case is fully resolved.

The groups have sued Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, alleging environmental laws had been violated in steps leading up to the lease sale. Organizations including the Alaska Oil and Gas Association, the North Slope Borough and the Kaktovik Inupiat Corp., an Alaska Native corporation representing the only village in the refuge, intervened in the case on the side of the federal government.

Gleason heard arguments in the case Monday.

In her 27-page decision Tuesday, she also rejected a request by the conservation groups seeking to stop an exploration plan in the refuge, submitted by the Kaktovik corporation, that would allow large seismic trucks to inch across the frozen tundra in search of the most promising areas to drill.

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